Scenes from a thesis: modelling development

“One of the main concerns […] is how to account for quantitative growth in development and how to relate this quantitative growth to qualitative analyses and to the parameters in the model. The definition of such quantitative growth (or development) is an autocatalytic quantitative increase in a growth variable following the emergence of a specific structural possibility in the cognitive system. In other words, language development (or cognitive growth in general) consists of growth which is expressed in numbers (quantitative) and which is not entirely caused by some external factor (autocatalytic). This growth is caused by the system itself, i.e. change is induced by the cognitive system itself.”

From: Going the distance:  A Non-Linear Approach To Change In Language Development. H.G. Ruhland. Groningen, 1998.

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Scenes from a thesis: rule guided development

“The importance of the concept of a language structure is that in any language, but also during development this structure follows rules. In other words, language and language development is not without a goal. There is an end state in development, which is described and explained with the aid of linguistic theory. Language development, i.e. the change from no language to that end state, is not a proliferation of change that is adrift, but a series of learning events in time that is rule guided, although these rules do not need to be innate or explicitly learned.”

From: Going the distance:  A Non-Linear Approach To Change In Language Development. H.G. Ruhland. Groningen, 1998.

Scenes from a thesis: development

“Development is not an unambiguous concept: there are several meanings (or definitions) of development. Development means growth, and growth is defined as an increase in size or value. This means that something has been present all the time, nothing new is added. Development also means evolution, which derives from the Latin evolve meaning to unfold or to open out. Stage of advancement is [also] listed as a definition of development, advancement being derived from the word advance, which means (among others) to rise or to move forward. [So], If change (e.g. to increase, to open out, to move forward) is the core aspect of development, the next step is to determine the treatment of change (development) in theories on development.”

From: Going the distance:  A Non-Linear Approach To Change In Language Development. H.G. Ruhland. Groningen, 1998.

The end of science as I knew it

Today an era of my life is coming to an end. In fact, my life as scientist – that’s the era I’m talking about – ended 15 years ago when I left the faculty of social sciences to move ahead and try my luck outside the university.

One of the highly appreciated colleagues I left behind in the first years of this millennium  was my promotor, Professor Paul van Geert. He too, as of this day, is leaving science and the university. He is on the verge of becoming a Professor Emeritus.

As an honour to him, I dedicate this blogpost to his work on child development and the introduction of dynamic systems modelling to the study of, for instance, language acquisition in young children.

I learned a lot from him, not only as a thinker, but also as a homo universalis. Apart from that, and as an artist – by the way, the title of his liber amoricum is ‘A Portrait of a Scientist as an Artist’.

I thank him for the years we worked together on thoughts about (language) development which culminated in my thesis ‘Going the Distance’. And at the same time – I am writing this post in the garden of the faculty, a garden that used to be the Hortus Botanicus and which originates from the 17th century – I regard this day, on which I’m meeting a lot of people from the past who I haven’t seen for ages, as my definitive farewell to science. Although I may have gone years ago, today is the final day of me going. I’m gone for good. Bye science.

So Professor Paul, fare thee well. May we meet some other day, some other time.

(c) Rick Ruhland 2015