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SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Children's Language Learning and the Making of Human Lifeworlds, Alan Rumsey, 26 Oct

Australian National University, Outreach, SYNAPSE

Date: 29 September 2020

SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Children's Language Learning and the Making of Human Lifeworlds

Speaker: Alan Rumsey

When: 26 Oct 2020, 2pm-3pm

Where: This is an online event and will be hosted via Zoom; Login details for the Zoom event will be included in your Eventbrite registration email

Registration via Eventbrite:


One of the biggest mysteries about the human species is child language acquisition: how do children manage to learn, in a few years, systems so complex that no computer can yet model their use, yet proceeding from an initial state that is flexible enough to enable them to learn languages of wildly differing structures? Another big mystery is the development of intersubjectivity – the human capacity for understanding and sharing intentions and perspectives that enables cultural learning and the making of the social world. For the past several years, Francesca Merlan and I have been working on a project that examines both of those processes based on field research in a locale where neither has been systematically studied before – the central highlands of New Guinea. We are doing so from a linguistic-anthropological perspective that we expect will also enable us to shed light on two other key issues in contemporary social theory: the question of how particular human lifeworlds get reproduced and transformed in everyday human interaction; and the nature of subjectivity, i.e., of how we come to think and feel as participants in those lifeworlds. In this seminar I will present a sample of that work, drawing on transcripts of interaction between Ku Waru children and adults, and on our long-term ethnographic research in the region.


Alan Rumsey is an Emeritus Professor of Linguistic Anthropology at the ANU School of Culture History and Language. He is currently involved in a major collaborative research project on 'Children's Language Learning and the Development of Intersubjectivity'.

Alan's research interests include Melanesia; Aboriginal Australia; linguistic anthropology; intersubjectivity, child language socialization, sign languages, multimodal communication, comparative poetics.

This is a public seminar and will be recorded.

This seminar is part of SYNAPSE: The CHL trans-disciplinary seminar series

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University