The Roger Brown Award was created in 2011 to acknowledge and celebrate an outstanding contribution to the international child language community.
The first recipient of the award was Brian MacWhinney at the 2011 Congress in Montreal, followed by Dan Slobin in 2014 at the Congress in Amsterdam, and by Jean Berko Gleason at the 2017 Congress in Lyon.
Roger W. Brown was Professor of Social Psychology at Harvard University from 1962 to 1994. He is acknowledged as the father of modern-day research on child language and is widely recognized as the founder of developmental psycholinguistics and a pioneer in the study of how children acquire language. Roger's website
Brian MacWhinney has contributed to the fields of first- and second-language acquisition, psycholinguistics, the neurological bases of language, and computational models of language development for over 40 years. He has been active in the IASCL since its inception and acted as President from 1999 to 2002. With Catherine Snow, he co-founded and now directs CHILDES, the Child Language Data Exchange System, and TalkBank. CHILDES has revolutionized the sharing, entry, and analysis of child language data across the globe and has brought together contributions on child language data from over 39 languages, plus data from bilinguals. The free access to data and to the analytical programs that he and his teams have developed has had perhaps the most far-reaching impact on the field of any development in the last 50 years.
Brian is noted in his own work for his Competition Model of language acquisition, developed in collaboration with Elizabeth Bates, which presents an emergentist perspective of language development. In his own words, "The Competition Model views language processing as a series of competitions between lexical items, phonological forms, and syntactic patterns." The model has been widely tested and supported through research in psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and cognitive development.
Brian has also been instrumental in research on connectionist models of language and language development. His work has focused on the emergence of English, German, and Hungarian, and it has helped elucidate the acquisition of morphology, syntax, and the lexicon.
Brian's contributions to the field and to the IASCL have been so outstanding that he was a clear choice for receiving the first ever Roger Brown award. Brian's website
Dan I. Slobin’s research at the interface of psychology and linguistics is rare in both the breadth and depth of the issues he has covered since he began research in this field in the 1960s. Among the topics that stand out are his research on: the cognitive underpinnings of language acquisition, the acquisition of morpho-syntax, the development of form–function relations, narrative skills, the nature of the input in mother-child interaction, relations between language and culture, the role of language in cognition, the encoding of spatial relations, and a variety of explorations into signed languages. Dan’s research and thinking in each area has had a profound influence on the field, and his publications in each domain have strongly influenced both his students and his colleagues, offering guidelines and creating ‘research traditions’. With almost every publication, Dan Slobin has presented a new way of looking at language and at acquisition. For example, his paper on ‘Thinking for speaking’ helped bring language back into cognition, just as his formulation of form-function relations helped bridge the gap between syntax and pragmatics. His emphasis on the importance of language typology and on cross-linguistic comparison as a basic methodology has also contributed to delineating what is general versus what is language-specific in the process of first language acquisition. In short, the many new ideas that stemmed from Dan’s view of the field, and, in particular, his ability to both frame them theoretically and ground them empirically, has had a fundamental impact on the directions taken by research in developmental psycholinguistics over the last several decades.
His influence internationally has been enormous. His emphasis on cross-linguistic comparison in the study of first language acquisition stimulated, and continues to stimulate, research in many different languages and cultures; it also attracted speakers of diverse languages as students and post-docs in his lab at Berkeley, and this in turn has contributed significantly to the development of our field, adding both cultural variety and greater linguistic diversity.
He also encouraged growth in the field with workshops and conferences –– always international in composition, and also looking at data from many languages. And these conferences have resulted in publications that have added importantly to the respective national and international research on first language acquisition – notably the four volumes that Dan Slobin edited in the 1980s and 1990s, on The Crosslinguistic Study of Language Acquisition. Dan's website
[Excerpted from President Eve Clark's Presentation of the Award]
Jean Berko Gleason is the “founding mother of experimental developmental psycholinguistics”. The elicitation method she created (Berko 1958), known now simply as the ‘wug test’, “paved the way for all experimental studies in language acquisition, showing that even very young children can be tested”, not merely observed….Critically, her elicitation method has been invaluable to scholars taking differing perspectives on how children acquire language, “providing a theory-neutral means of assessing what a child knows about the language being used.” …
Her paradigm has been adapted for use in “the study of both normal and less typically-developing children´s acquisition of inflectional morphology in numerous languages,” and deployed “to show the relevance of morphological productivity to [other] fields … (e.g. aphasia, developmental disorders, L2). “In the field of literacy… (s)he set the groundwork for the methods [used] to assess children’s morphological awareness,” and in speech-language pathology, one sees the “impact of her work on present day… and future generations of SLPs, all around the world.”….
Berko Gleason’s life work has extended well beyond morphological acquisition, to include “aspects of language learning [such as] routines and formulaic speech, input, social interaction and gender differences, [and also] aphasia”. She was the “first to show the importance of gender-based analyses of parent-child interactions” and the “impact of parents as collaborators in language construction by young children.” She “brought the spotlight on the important role of fathers as well as mothers in children´s language acquisition, and on the differences and similarities between … parents´ linguistic input and reactions to their sons as compared to their daughters.” …“Jean’s work across her career has been a beautiful demonstration of the power of being eclectic, of being open to the full range of communicative phenomena and methodologies to study it.”…
Jean Berko Gleason planted our field’s experimental roots, gathered some of its most valuable and often-cited research data, and advocates for the importance of what we do as IASCL members. Jean's website
[Excerpted from the nominating letter (quotes indicate comments from researchers in the field)]