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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach addresses the question: "How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it?"


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Academic Paper


Title: Pronouns and verbs in adult speech to children: A corpus analysis
Author: Aarre Laakso
Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
Author: Linda B. Smith
Institution: Indiana University Bloomington
Linguistic Field: Text/Corpus Linguistics
Abstract: Assessing whether domain-general mechanisms could account for language acquisition requires determining whether statistical regularities among surface cues in child directed speech (CDS) are sufficient for inducing deep syntactic and semantic structure. This paper reports a case study on the relation between pronoun usage in CDS, on the one hand, and broad verb classes, on the other. A corpus analysis reveals statistical regularities in co-occurrences between pronouns and verbs in CDS that could cue physical versus psychological verbs. A simulation demonstrates that a simple statistical learner can acquire these regularities and exploit them to activate verbs that are consistent with incomplete utterances in simple syntactic frames. Thus, in this case, surface regularities sufficiently informative for inducing broad semantic categories. Children use these regularities in pronoun/verb co-occurrences to help learn verbs, although whether they do so remains a topic of ongoing research.

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This article appears IN Journal of Child Language Vol. 34, Issue 4, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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