Asymmetries in grammar
Postal Address: CLCG, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 716, 9700 AS Groningen
In the past decades, research on language acquisition has identified several asymmetries between production and comprehension. For example, it is a well-known fact that in many languages children make errors interpreting object pronouns such as him as late as age 7. Yet, from a young age on these children use the object pronoun him in an adult-like and systematic way when they speak. This suggests that production may precede comprehension in language acquisition. In many other cases, however, children understand a form before they use it correctly themselves.
Such asymmetries between production and comprehension create difficulties for traditional rule-based grammars, since speakers who obey a rule in production are presumed to know this rule, and hence are expected to obey this rule in comprehension too (and vice versa for hearers).
The course reviews a number of attested production/comprehension asymmetries, and discusses the view that such asymmetries follow from an optimization perspective on grammar.
Monday: Language, cognition, and optimality. Slides day 1
Tuesday: Bidirectional optimization and late asymmetries in child language (Delay of Principle B Effect, anaphoric subjects). Slides day 2
Wednesday: Constraint reranking and early asymmetries in child language (early word forms, basic word order). Slides day 3
Thursday: Learning to optimize bidirectionally (relation with: Theory of Mind, processing speed, working memory). Slides day 4
Friday: Optimality and adult sentence processing. Slides day 5
Saturday January 24 & Sunday January 25, 2009: In the weekend following this course, there will be a related conference on language acquisition at the University of Groningen: Relating Asymmetries between Speech and Comprehension in the Acquisition of Language (RASCAL).
Background and preparatory readings:
Prince, A. & P. Smolensky (1997). Optimality: From neural networks to universal grammar. Science 275, 1604-1610.
Chapter 1 of Hendriks, P., H. de Hoop, I. Krämer, H. de Swart, & J. Zwarts (2008), Conflicts in Interpretation. Book manuscript, to be published by Equinox, 2009.
Hoop, H. de & I. Krämer (2005/6). Children's optimal interpretations of indefinite subjects and objects. Language Acquisition 13, 103-123.
Hendriks, P. & J. Spenader (2005/6). When production precedes comprehension: An optimization approach to the acquisition of pronouns. Language Acquisition 13:4, 319-348.
Spenader, P., E.-J. Smits, & P. Hendriks (in press). Coherent discourse solves the Pronoun Interpretation Problem. Journal of Child Language.
Smolensky, P. (1996). On the comprehension/production dilemma in child language. Linguistic Inquiry 27, 720-731.
Hendriks, P., H. de Hoop, & M. Lamers (2005). Asymmetries in language use reveal asymmetries in the grammar. In: P. Dekker & M. Franke (Eds.), Proceedings of the 15th Amsterdam Colloquium, ILLC, Amsterdam, pp. 113-118.
Hendriks, P., H. van Rijn, & B. Valkenier (2007). Learning to reason about speakers' alternatives in sentence comprehension: A computational account. Lingua 117:11, 1879-1896.
Hendriks, P., C. Englert, E. Wubs, & J. Hoeks (2008). Age differences in adults' use of referring expressions. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 17:4, 443-466.
Hendriks, P., H. de Hoop, I. Krämer, H. de Swart, & J. Zwarts (2008), Conflicts in Interpretation. Book manuscript, to be published by Equinox, 2009.