Ambridge lecture image

Ben Ambridge

Professor of Psychology

Phone: 0151 794 1111

University of Liverpool

A bit about Ben Ambridge

My research investigates children's first language acquisition, mostly using judgement and production methodologies. I am particularly interested in children's overgeneralization errors (e.g., *The joked giggled him; *I falled over ) and errors involving question formation (e.g., *What he doesn't like? ). I also study children's acquisition of morphology, focusing particularly on Optional Infinitive errors in English (e.g., *He play ) and agreement/case-marking errors in morphologically rich languages, specifically Polish, Finnish and Lithuanian.

I also have three sidelines:

  1. Conducting studies that investigate alternative discourse/processing-based accounts of so-called "Universal Grammar" phenomena (e.g., subjacency; structure dependence),
  2. Writing review articles/chapters (ideally controversial ones) and a textbook (Child Language Acquisition: Contrasting Theoretical Approaches) and
  3. Writing popular science, including my book, Psy-Q which introduces readers to interesting findings from the Psychology literature by means of interactive tests, games, illusions and quizzes.

Please see my website for more information.

My Role in LuCiD

I am the lead researcher on two LuCiD Work Packages. One investigates children’s transition from lexically-specific to abstract syntactic knowledge, focussing specifically on their production of English wh- questions. The second investigates how children learn to use and comprehend nominative and accusative case marking (indicating “who did what to whom”) in two languages with relatively flexible word order: Polish and Finnish. Again, the focus is on understanding the transition from lexically-specific knowledge (e.g., of individual case-marked pronouns) to the fully-abstract adult system. I am also co-investigator on a related project looking at the acquisition of verb morphology in these two languages. 

LuCiD publications (13) by Ben Ambridge

Savičiūtė, E., Ambridge, B & Pine, J. M. (in press). (2017). The roles of word-form frequency and phonological neighbourhood density in the acquisition of Lithuanian noun morphology. Journal of Child Language.

Tatsumi, T., Ambridge, B. & Pine, J. M. (in press). (2017). Disentangling effects of input frequency and morphophonological complexity on children's acquisition of verb inflection: An elicited production study of Japanese. Cognitive Science.

Engelmann, F., Szreder, M., Kolak, J., Granlund, S., Ambridge, B., Pine, J., Theakston, A., & Lieven, E. (2016). Modelling the acquisition of Polish verb inflection. Paper presented at the the 2nd LuCiD Language and Communicative Development Conference, Manchester, UK.

Räsänen, S. H. M., Ambridge, B. & Pine, J. M. (2016). Comparing generativist and constructivist accounts of the acquisition of inflectional morphology: An elicited production study of Finnish. Cognitive Science, 40, 1704-1738

Twomey, K. E., Chang, F., & Ambridge, B. (2016). Lexical distributional cues, but not situational cues, are readily used to learn abstract locative verb-structure associations. Cognition, 153, 124–139.

Ambridge, B., Bidgood, A., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F. & Freudenthal, D. (2016). Is passive syntax semantically constrained? Evidence from adult grammaticality judgment and comprehension studies. Cognitive Science, 40(6): 1435-59.

Ambridge, B., Lieven, E., (2015). A Constructivist Account of Child Language Acquisition In The Handbook of Language Emergence, (eds B. MacWhinney and W. O'Grady), John Wiley & Sons, Inc, Hoboken, NJ, USA. pp478-510

Ambridge, B. (2015). Island constraints and overgeneralization in language acquisition Cognitive Linguistics, 26(2), 361-370

Blything, R., Ambridge, B., Lieven, E. (2015). Children Use Statistics and Semantics in the Retreat from Overgeneralization PLoS ONE, 9, 10

Ambridge, B. (2015). Clever mistakes. Talk given 8 November, Manchester Museum.

Ambridge, B., Pine, J. M., & Lieven, E.V.M. (2015). Explanatory adequacy is not enough: Response to commentators on 'Child language acquisition: Why universal grammar doesn't help. Language: Perspectives, 91(3): E116-126

Ambridge, B., Bidgood, A., Twomey, K. E., Pine, J. M., Rowland, C. F. & Freudenthal, D. (2015). Preemption versus Entrenchment: Towards a construction-general solution to the problem of the retreat from verb argument structure overgeneralization. PLoS ONE, 10 (4): e0123723.

Ambridge, B., Kidd, E., Rowland, C. and Theakston, A. (2015). The ubiquity of frequency effects in first language acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 42, (2), 239-273.

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