TORO SOTO, JUAN MANUEL
I am: an ICREA research professor and the director of the Language and Comparative Cognition group at UPF.
I am interested in: the basic learning mechanisms humans use for language acquisition. I study them in human adults and infants...but also in other animal species. This is because many of my studies explore the extent to which some mechanisms might be shared with other species, hopefully giving cues about their evolutionary origins.
One discovery I am proud of: Some time ago we showed rats can extract prosodic information present in speech in a similar way human infants do (a study that recently received the honorific tittle of one of the five greatest Ig Nobel prize-winning scientific papers). More recently we demonstrated that animals outperform humans in a rule learning task precisely because they lack linguistic representations that constrain pattern extraction in human adults and infants (de la Mora & Toro, 2013, Cognition).
One thing I would like to discover next: I would like to understand why infants can use certain cues to discover linguistic structures that other animals do not seem to be able to grasp. For example, infants seem to take a lot of advantage from prosody, but other animals don't (even though they can perceive the prosodic cues).