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Jean Berko Gleason      

Psycholinguist Who Studies How We Acquire and Use Language

Jean Berko Gleason is a Professor Emerita in the psychology department at the Boston University, a psycholinguist who has made fundamental contributions to the understanding of language acquisition in children, aphasia, gender differences in language development, and parent-child interactions. She is best known for creating the wug test, by which she demonstrated that even young children have implicit knowledge of linguistic morphology, and which remains in use today.

Gleason spent most of her professional career at Boston University, where she served as Psychology department chair and director of the Graduate Program in Human Development. Lise Menn and Harold Goodglass were among her collaborators there. She has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University, Stanford University and at the Linguistics Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Psychological Association and was president of the International Association for the Study of Child Language from 1990 to 1993. She has been active in the Gypsy Lore Society, and was its president from 1996 to 1999. She has also served on the editorial boards of numerous academic and professional journals, and was associate editor of Language. She is editor or co-editor of two widely used textbooks, "The Development of Language" and "Psycholinguistics."

Gleason was one of the profiled in "Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Forty Women Whose Ideas Shape the Modern World." A festschrift in her honor, Methods for Studying Language Production, was published in 2000.

For several years she has delivered the "Welcome, welcome" and "Goodbye, goodbye" speeches at the annual Ig Nobel Awards ceremonies.

As part of her dissertation research Gleason devised the wug test, in which a young child is shown simple pictures of imaginary creatures and activities, and asked to complete statements about them.

Gleason's findings are considered central to the understanding of how and when children achieve important language milestones. Her resulting paper ("The Child's Learning of English Morphology") remains basic to collections of readings in language development and cognitive psychology, and variations on the wug test are still used throughout the world to research children's language acquisition.


Jean Berko Gleason - Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

Science: Jean Berko Gleason is a psycholinguist who studies how we acquire and use language. The shortest language Jean speaks is Munchkin.

Honey, BooBoo and Babe: Why Adults Still Use Baby Talk

“We talk that way to one another because we love each other,” says Jean Berko Gleason, professor emerita of psychology at Boston University. “It's the affective ...

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