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Language Science Talks

Language Science Talks is a series of talks by prominent language sciences researchers from around the world. 

If you would like to speak at one of our upcoming events, or have suggestions for talk topics, please email


Title and speakers
Date and time

Co-hosted by the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research

Encoding and decoding speech in the human brain

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Dr. Edward Chang, Professor of Neurological Surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, will present ‘Encoding and decoding speech in the human brain’, a Language Science Talks event as part of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research Neuroscience Research Colloquium series.

This talk is co-hosted by the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Research and the UBC Language Sciences Initiative.

University of California, San Francisco Professor of Neurological Surgery Edward Chang

March 13th, 2020

11:00 - 12:00

Lower level, Rudy North Lecture Theatre, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health

Previous talks

Title and speakers
Date and time

Co-hosted by the Department of Linguistics and the Language Sciences Initiative.

Temporal Aspect in American Sign Language


In this presentation, I will discuss aspect in American Sign Language (ASL), demonstrating that ASL users have a range of options to produce aspectual meanings, including verb reduplication, aspectual verbs, adverbial signs and phrases, aspectual nouns, and combinations of the above.

Western Oregon University Professor and coordinator of Interpreting Studies Elisa Maroney

November 8th, 2019

15:30 - 17:00

Civil and Mechanical Engineering (CEME) - 1202, 6250 Applied Science Lane

How prenatal experience shapes speech perception​


Experience with language starts in the womb. The prenatal speech signal is filtered by maternal tissues, preserving the rhythm and melody of speech, i.e. prosody, but suppressing fine details needed for the identification of individual speech sounds. The talk will examine the hypothesis that this prenatal experience with speech prosody might already shape how newborns perceive speech. In a series of NIRS and EEG experiments, I will show that basic auditory mechanisms such as envelope tracking are immune to prenatal influence, while more language-specific mechanisms, such as prosodic grouping, are already modulated at birth. I will discuss how these mechanisms lay the foundations for later language acquisition.

Language Sciences affiliate member and CNRS senior research scientist Dr. Judit Gervain.

June 19th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

 Suedfeld Lounge (room 2510) Douglas T. Kenny Building, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver  

Storybook Mexico: Best practices to promote children's literacies in Indigenous languages​

Abstract and Bio

In this talk we discuss ideas to promote children´s literacies in the indigenous languages in Mexico. In Mexico, all indigenous languages are minority languages, some of which have several linguistic variants that are in different situations and degrees of vitality and endangerment. Today, these languages are undergoing varying processes of standardization. Also, a portion of the indigenous children learns to read and write in the native language during the first years of primary school. However, relatively few indigenous speakers have developed literacies in their mother tongue. The unequal situation and position of indigenous languages in Mexico creates a challenging situation for the support of indigenous literacies. 

Storybook Mexico is a project aimed to support Mexican indigenous and non-indigenous children, families, and communities access multimodal stories (written text, audio and images) in their ancestral languages. During the project, we collaborated with a UBC team from Language and Literacy Education to translate open access stories from the African Storybook into some of the local indigenous languages of Mexico, using the Storybooks Canada modular website ( Based on this experience, we address the development of best practices for collaborative work with the speech communities, linking the needs and interests of the (heritage) speakers themselves to the translation practice. This includes the awareness of local language ideologies towards the Indigenous languages, but also towards literacy events and literacy practices. Likewise, we stress the importance to better understand the theoretical underpinnings of cross cultural translation between Indigenous languages, taking into account the experiences, viewpoints and investment of the translators.


Anuschka van ‘t Hooft is a research professor at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, Mexico. As a cultural anthropologist, she specializes in Mexican indigenous languages and cultures. Her research interests lie in the areas of oral traditions, language documentation and revitalization, and collaborative research.

Language Sciences affiliate member and Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities Professor Anuschka van ´t Hooft.

May 29th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

Irving K Barber Learning Centre (IBLC) - 185, 1961 East Mall, Vancouver

From text analytics to predictive analytics enhanced by language sciences


Computer Science professor Raymond Ng will present this talk, the first half of which will give a short overview of some of the research Dr. Ng has conducted, analyzing various types of text data, including sentiment analysis and abstractive summarization. In the second half of the talk, Dr. Ng will discuss how to build predictive models based on text and data of various kinds. He will use examples involving identifying patients with emotional needs, and stratifying children with potentially high risk for suicide.  Finally, Dr. Ng will speculate as to how language sciences can enhance predictive models that are purely data-driven.

Language Sciences member, Data Science Institute director and UBC Computer Science Professor Raymond Ng

May 21st, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

ORCH 3074, 6363 Agronomy Rd, Vancouver

Indigenous Storybooks: Protocols and Educational Possibilities​


Exploring Protocols in Digital Territories: Dr. Sara Florence Davidson, an Assistant Professor in Teacher Education at the University of the Fraser Valley, discussed the complexities of honouring protocols in digital spaces. Specifically, she focussed on how the Indigenous Storybooks project is being used to support community Indigenous language revitalization efforts and how the platform is being used to support educators to honour existing protocols associated with the sharing of traditional Indigenous stories in their classrooms. 

Digital Literacy in Canada and Beyond: Dr. Bonny Norton (FRSC), a Professor in UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), discussed the relationship between Storybooks Canada, Indigenous Storybooks, and Global Storybooks, and introduced the team’s current collaboration with an Indigenous language project in Mexico. In March, 2019, The Province newspaper identified Storybooks Canada as one of four reading app recommendations by local librarians, noting its multilingual features and its connection with Indigenous languages. 

Digital Literacy and Indigenous languages: Liam Doherty, a PhD Candidate in UBC’s Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), discussed how an approach leveraging open licenses and open content can help to address some of the challenges presented by the digitization and distribution of material in Indigenous languages in a manner that is respectful of practices and protocols surrounding access. When combined with an open source development strategy such an approach can also maximize the impact and reach of digital tools for working with Indigenous languages across communities by reducing duplication of effort, improving accessibility, protecting (individual and community) privacy, guarding against platform obsolescence, and encouraging a digital culture of knowledge and resource sharing.

Language Sciences affiliate member and University of the Fraser Valley Assistant Professor Sara Florence Davidson
Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED) Professor and Distinguished University Scholar Bonny Norton
LLED PhD candidate Liam Doherty

April 10th, 2019

12:00 - 14:00

Room 2012, Ponderosa Commons Oak House, 6445 University Blvd, UBC Vancouver

Misinformation managed: How to have healthy conversations online

Language Sciences member and UBC History Assistant Professor Heidi Tworek; Language Sciences affiliate member and SFU Linguistics Professor Maite Taboada.

March 6th, 2019

14:00 - 16:00

WOOD 4, Instructional Resources Centre (IRC)

2194 Health Sciences Mall

Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3