Zoom link to be
announced. The real
class page is on a password-protected server; email me if
you would to participate in this class.
The study of
language acquisition has produced plenty of accurate and
insightful descriptions of child language but relatively few
explicit accounts of learning that incorporate language specific
experience into the child's knowledge. Likewise, experimental
research has identified processes that could provide the bridge
between the data and the grammar, but questions remain whether
these laboratory findings can sufficiently generalize to the
full range of linguistic complexity. Most pressing is the
question of discontinuity: How does the child go from not
knowing some aspect of their language, such as a morphological
rule, to knowing it at some later point of acquisition?
tension exists in the study of cognitive development. The
Piagetian theory of developmental stages overstates its case as
the study of infant cognition and perception has shown in the
past few decades. However, there are quantal changes
in children’s conceptual development at least in some domains: a
causal mechanism is called for. The coverage of
cognitive development will be minor class in this class as we
focus on the specific aspects where language, and language
learning, seem to have a decisive impact.
studies the important connection between what children know and
how they come to know it. We will have very little to say about
aspects of language that are invariant, universal, and likely
innate, but will focus on the use of language specific
experience, i.e., the structural and statistical properties of
the input, in the acquisition of language. In other words, we do
distributional learning. As we will see, once a good theory of
learning is in place, we may start to question the validity of
theories that traditionally allocate more weight of explanation
to grammar internal principles and constraints. Maybe language
really is nothing but Merge.
registered students, there will be 3-4 problem sets,
all of which have to deal with data analysis. You will be asked
to extract child language data, and child-directed input data, from the CHILDES
database, and carry out statistical analysis or implement
specific learning algorithms. Quantitative results are expected
and will be subject to formal evaluation. The problems are all
well-defined and many have been extensively researched in the
past but additional data, including those from other languages,
may still yield new insights.
materials and problem sets will be posted online. Registered
students need to submit a research paper.
Topics, Roughly in Order
(* = optional)
I realize it
is nearly impossible to read all the materials listed below,
some of which may be quite far removed from the core areas of
study for most participants. I list them because I think they
are important, for me anyway, for developing a broader
perspective on language and learning.
Each unit has
an introductory reading item (in red)
which should be read first for background and overview.
Books will be distributed in some appropriate form.
Lewontin, R.C. 1983. The organism as the subject and object of
evolution. Scientia. 118, 53-82.
Quine, W.V., 1957. The scope and
language of science. The British Journal for the philosophy
of Science, 8(29), pp.1-17.
Chomsky, N. 1965. Aspects of the theory of syntax. MIT
Press. Part of chapter 1.
Labov, W., 1989. The child as
linguistic historian. Language variation and change, 1(1),
Berwick & Niyogi 1996. Formalizing
triggers. Linguistic Inquiry.
Bush, R.R. and Mosteller, F., 1951. A mathematical model for simple learning. Psychological review, 58(5), p.313.
Gleitman, L.R. and Trueswell, J.C., 2020. Easy words: Reference resolution in a malevolent referent world. Topics in cognitive science, 12(1), pp.22-47.
*Pereira, A.F., Smith, L.B. and Yu, C., 2014. A bottom-up view of toddler word learning. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 21(1), pp.178-185.
*Pruden, S.M., Hirsh‐Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R.M. and Hennon, E.A., 2006. The birth of words: Ten‐month‐olds learn words through perceptual salience. Child development, 77(2), pp.266-280.
Stevens, J.S., Gleitman, L.R., Trueswell, J.C. and Yang, C., 2017. The pursuit of word meanings. Cognitive science, 41, pp.638-676.
Xu, F. and Tenenbaum, J.B., 2007. Word learning as Bayesian inference. Psychological review, 114(2), p.245.
* Cui, A., 2020. The Emergence of Phonological Categories (Doctoral dissertation, University of Pennsylvania).
Feldman, N.H., Griffiths, T.L. and Morgan, J.L., 2013. A role for the developing lexicon in phonetic category acquisition. Psychological review, 120(4), p.751.
Johnson, E.K. and White, K.S. 2019. Six Questions in Infant Speech. Human Language: From Genes and Brains to Behavior, p.99.*Lignos, C., 2012, April. Infant word segmentation: An incremental, integrated model. In Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics (Vol. 30, pp. 13-15).
Reeder, P.A., Newport, E.L. and Aslin,
R.N., 2013. From shared contexts to syntactic categories:
The role of distributional information in learning linguistic
form-classes. Cognitive psychology, 66(1), pp.30-54.
Yang, C. 2004. Universal Grammar,
statistics or both?. Trends in cognitive
sciences, 8(10), pp.451-456.
Yang, C. 2009. Population structure
and language change. Unpublished manuscript.
Yeung, H.H. and Werker, J.F., 2009.
Learning words’ sounds before learning how words sound:
9-month-olds use distinct objects as cues to categorize speech
information. Cognition, 113(2), pp.234-243.
E., Mintz, T.H., Bernal, S. and Christophe, A., 2009. Categorizing
words using ‘frequent frames’: what cross‐linguistic analyses
reveal about distributional acquisition
strategies. Developmental science, 12(3),
*De Marcken, C., 1995. Lexical heads, phrase structure and the induction of grammar. In Third Workshop on Very Large Corpora.
Dye, C., Kedar, Y. and Lust, B., 2019. From lexical to functional categories: New foundations for the study of language development. First Language, 39(1), pp.9-32.
*Meylan, S.C., Frank, M.C., Roy, B.C.
and Levy, R., 2017. The emergence of an abstract
grammatical category in children’s early
speech. Psychological science, 28(2), pp.181-192.
Tomasello, M., 2000. Do young children have adult syntactic competence?. Cognition, 74(3), pp.209-253.
Valian, V., Solt, S. and Stewart, J., 2009. Abstract categories or limited-scope formulae? The case of children's determiners. Journal of child language, 36(4), pp.743-778.
Yang, C., 2013. Ontogeny and phylogeny
of language. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences, 110(16), pp.6324-6327.
Valian. (Submitted). Determining the abstractness of
Albright, A. and Hayes, B., 2003.
Rules vs. analogy in English past tenses: A
computational/experimental study. Cognition, 90(2),
Berko, J. 1958. The child's learning
of English morphology. Word.
Chomsky, N. 1970. Remarks on
nominalization. In: R. Jacobs and P. Rosenbaum (eds.) Reading in
English Transformational Grammar, 184-221. Waltham: Ginn
Dabrowska, E. 2001. Learning a
morphological system without a default: the Polish genitive. J.
*Maratsos, M. 2000. More
regularization after all. J. Child Language.
Medin, D.L. and Schaffer, M.M., 1978. Context theory of classification learning. Psychological review, 85(3), p.207.
*Nosofsky, R.M., Palmeri, T.J. and McKinley, S.C., 1994. Rule-plus-exception model of classification learning. Psychological review, 101(1), p.53.
Pinker, S. and Ullman, M.T. and McClelland, J. and Patterson, P.
2002. The past tense debate.
Trends in cognitive sciences, 6(11).
C., 2002. Knowledge and learning in natural language.
Oxford University Press. Chapter 3.
Allen, S.E., 2015. Argument structure. In Cambridge handbook of child language (pp. 271-297). Cambridge University Press.
Berwick, R.C., 1985. The acquisition of syntactic knowledge. MIT press.
Bowerman, M. and Croft, W., 2008. The acquisition of the English causative alternation. Crosslinguistic perspectives on argument structure: Implications for learnability, pp.279-307.
Boyd, J.K. and Goldberg, A.E., 2011.
Learning what not to say: The role of statistical preemption and
categorization in a-adjective production. Language,
*Irani, A. 2019. Learning from
positive evidence: The acquisition of verb argument structure.
Perfors, A., Tenenbaum, J. and Wonnacott, E., 2010. Variability, negative evidence, and the acquisition of verb argument constructions. Journal of child language.
Pinker, S., 1989. Learnability and cognition: The acquisition of argument structure. MIT Press.
2016. The price of linguistic productivity: How children
learn to break the rules of language. MIT press.
Yang, C. 2017. Rage
against the machine. Language acquisition. 24(2),
2003. The essential child. Oxford University Press.
2009. The origin of concepts. Oxford University Press.
The CHILDES database
The SUBTLEX corpus
The English Lexicon Project.
Unix for Poets.
A Python bootcamp.
The CMU Pronunication Dictionary.