LOT Winter School 2009

Course title
Asymmetries in grammar

Petra Hendriks

E-mail:  P.Hendriks@rug.nl

Postal Address:  CLCG, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, P.O. Box 716, 9700 AS Groningen

Homepage:  www.let.rug.nl/~hendriks

Course Level:


Course Description

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.

Day-to-day Program

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

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).

Reading list

Background and preparatory readings:

Course readings:
Day 1:
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.

Day 2:
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.

Day 3:
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.

Day 4:
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.

Day 5:
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.

Further readings:
Hendriks, P., H. de Hoop, I. Krämer, H. de Swart, & J. Zwarts (2008), Conflicts in Interpretation. Book manuscript, to be published by Equinox, 2009.

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