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File:Brian macwhinney.jpg

Brian James MacWhinney (born August 22, 1945) is Professor of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, MacWhinney co-founded the CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) Project in 1984 with Catherine Snow. He also directs the TalkBank System for the study of conversational interaction. From 1978 to present, MacWhinney has developed a stream of pioneering programs included the Child Language Data Exchange System (CHILDES), Talkbank, PsyScope - an experimental control system for the Macintosh and STEP - System for Teaching Experimental Psychology for improving psychological and linguistic research. He is also a designer of E-Prime.

CHILDES & TalkBank ProjectEdit

MacWhinney actively participated in the development of CHILDES and TalkBank Project.

The CHILDES system provides tools for studying conversational interactions. These tools include a database of transcripts, programs for computer analysis of transcripts, methods for linguistic coding, and systems for linking transcripts to digitized audio and video. The CHILDES database includes a rich variety of computerized transcripts from language learn­ers. Most of these transcripts record spontaneous conversational interactions. There are also transcripts from bilingual children, older school-aged children, adult second-language learners, children with various types of lan­guage disabilities, and aphasics who are trying to recover from language loss. The tran­scripts include data on the learning of 26 different languages.

All adult data are in TalkBank, which means that aphasic data and second-language learning after early childhood (school-age and adult) are there. In addition, TalkBank has a lot of classroom data, code-switching, adult conversation, and meeting data.

Support for the construction of the database has comes from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NIH-NICHD) and the National Science Founda­tion Linguistics Program.

The Competition ModelEdit

Prior to co-founding the CHILDES system, in 1978 MacWhinney and Elizabeth Bates worked with over 20 colleagues studying processing in 18 different languages to elaborate. He has developed a model of first and second language acquisition as well as language processing called Competition Model. The Competition Model views language processing as a series of competitions between lexical items, phonological forms, and syntactic patterns. Competition Model studies have shown that learning of language forms is based on the accurate recording of many exposures to words and patterns in different contexts.

Other topicsEdit

Recently, MacWhinney's work has focused on aspects of second language learning and the neural bases of language as revealed by the development of children with focal brain lesions. He has begun to explore a new form of linguistic functionalism, which relates the communicative functions postulated by the Competition Model to the process of perspective-taking. This process allows the human mind to construct an ongoing cognitive simulation based on linguistic abstractions grounded on perceptual realities. The perspective-taking approach views the forms of grammar as emerging from repeated acts of perspective-taking and perspective-switching. Grammatical devices such as pronouns, case, voice, and attachment can all be seen as ways of expressing shifts in a basically ego-centered perspective. One major goal in this new line of research is to better understand the brain mechanisms underlying perspective-shifting.


MacWhinney received a Ph.D in 1974 from the University of California, Berkeley. Many organization and academic institutes have honored MacWhinney for his outstanding achievements, including International Association for the Study of Child Language, National Research Council, and Brain Map Advisory Board. MacWhinney actively participates on several boards of linguistics associations, educational institutions, and psychological societies. He is also a member of American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Society, Association for Computational Linguistics Cognitive Science Society, International Association for Child Language, Linguistic Society of America, Psychonomic Society, and Society for Research in Child Development.

MacWhinney's research success has been recognized by Grant Foundation bodies including NSF, NIMH, NICHD etc, and he has received numerous awards for his academic and research achievement. A partial list of recent awards includes: Infrastructure and KDI grant for the TalkBank Project. Collaboration (1999-2004) with the University of Pennsylvania, Linguistic Data Consortium, "System for the Teaching of Experimental Psychology (STEP)"(1999-2002), "Linguistic Tools for the Analysis of Child Language Transcript Data" (1998-2001).

External linksEdit

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