Monday, January 24, 2011

Thoughts on Lidz (2010)

Something that was extremely interesting to me was the linguistic phenomena that Lidz talked about in the later sections of the review - these are things that really look hard to learn from the data, and yet which children (and sometimes extremely young children) seem to have very clear intuitions about. These are far more complex than the standard poverty of the stimulus examples that are often tackled in the current modeling literature, like structure dependence and anaphoric one. They also make clear what domain-specific information that doesn't seem derivable from the input looks like, e.g., the connections between the observable features in the data and the underlying linguistic objects that express these features. Lidz clearly believes that there's a place for statistical learning (and in fact, a great need for statistical learning) even in a world that has Universal Grammar, since the learner has to track various input features. What Universal Grammar does is provide something like an attentional focus - which features are significant, etc. Moreover, UG also tells how these features connect to the abstract entities, rather than just saying "hey, look at these features - they're probably important for something" (unless we think it's obvious how some of the features map to the abstract structural knowledge).

Some more targeted thoughts:

  • The way Lidz used analysis by synthesis on p.203 seemed much more in line with what I thought it was compared to some of the definitions of AxS we saw in last time's reading.

  • I thought the 18-month-old constituent knowledge was interesting, but it wasn't as convincing to me as some of the later examples since infants at that age do have experience with constituents moving in their native language - so it's not like they haven't ever seen constituents moving before. In contrast, the interpretations connected with the Spanish & Kannada dative alternations are not something children seemed to encounter very much at all in the input. The same goes for the generic vs. existential interpretations on bare nouns.

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