Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring quarter scheduling

I hope everyone's had a good spring break - and now it's time to gear up for the spring quarter of the reading group! :) The schedule of readings is now posted on the CoLa Reading group webpage, including readings on phonology, process models, and pragmatics:

Now all we need to do is converge on a specific day and time - please let me know by next Thursday (4/2/15) what your availability is during the week. We'll continue our tradition of meeting for approximately one hour (and of course, posting on the discussion board here).

Thanks and see you soon!

Friday, March 13, 2015

See you in the spring!

Thanks so much to everyone who was able to join us for our enlightening discussion today about Viau et al. 2010, and to everyone who's joined us throughout the winter quarter! The CoLa Reading Group will resume again in the spring quarter. As always, feel free to send me suggestions of articles you're interested in reading, especially if you happen across something particularly interesting!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Some thoughts on Viau et al. 2010

I really enjoyed the clear delineation of structural vs. semantic vs. pragmatic factors described — it makes it easier to imagine a formal model of interpreting these kind of utterances. For example, things that matter: 

(i) how recently a logic structural computation has begin computed (structure)
(ii) what meaning/extension has recently been accessed, irrespective of the structure that generated it (semantics)
(iii) what the likely communicative intention is, given the discourse (pragmatics)

In particular, it’s the dependencies between these three that seem particularly interesting, since this paper provides concrete evidence of how much impact (i) and (ii) can have when (iii) is minimized, and also how (ii) can impact (i).

Also, I kept thinking about how the phenomena described might relate to a Rational Speech Act (RSA) model of language use, which typically gets at the pragmatics (iii) by saying something about the meanings that were intended (ii). So maybe what we’d really want in order to capture what’s going on during interpretation is to use something RSA-like to model the pragmatics, while also having a processing model that deals with how accessible the structures (i) and extensions (ii) are to a child learner (or even an adult, I suppose).

More specific thoughts:

(1) I was surprised to read that non-isomorphic scope readings only seem to be a problem when negation is involved, based on Goro 2007 (intro, a paragraph before example 5). So kids are fine for something like “Everyone saw a movie”, where a >> every  = There’s a specific movie that every person saw. But as soon as we stick in negation (“Everyone didn’t see a movie”), the non-isomorphic reading with “not” at the top becomes hard for kids to get (i.e., not >> every, a = It’s not true that every person saw a movie — some did, some didn’t). This makes “not” special. And I wonder if the RSA-style models have anything to say about that, since it does seem very pragmatics-based. (Though I suppose “not” is also special syntactically since it doesn’t have to be a determiner, and it’s also special semantically since it inverts the meaning.)

In footnote 6, in section 3.1.5.,  V&al2010 mention a little about what’s going on with respect to the pragmatics, as they discuss a hypothesis that negating positive expectations (“They all were going to…but look! Some didn’t.”) is easier than negating negative expectations (“They all weren’t going to — but look! Some did!”). Let’s suppose this is true — is this easy to instantiate in an RSA-like model? Does it maybe fall out from assumptions that are natural in an RSA-like model?

(2) That crazy effect in experiment two, where they give kids expected success (ES) stories and get a super-duper non-isomorphic access effect when they take away that supportive pragmatic environment (i.e., give them expected failure (EF) setups): We can see this pretty starkly in Figure 5. I don’t think V&al2010 quite know what’s going on with that either. I guess it could be structural and semantic priming just taking over, and since the kids don’t get any evidence that this is wrong, we maybe get a training effect. But this would be a pretty cool behavior to capture in a model that didn’t explicitly build it in.

(3) Footnote 16 right at the end about how long the priming lasted — 3 days to a month sounds like a very long time. My (fairly uninformed and probably out-of-date) recollection about syntactic priming suggested that structure priming effects are usually pretty short-lived. So something lasting this long is a major implicit learning kind of thing. Maybe this happened because the logical structure is connected to specific extensions that mattered in the context of the experiments? So the idea would be that this connection between multiple representations (one of which is more conscious and matters for communication, i.e., the semantic extension) is what caused the evidence accrued during the experiment to have more of an impact on these kids.