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Arguments for Nativism. Various other facts about child language add support to the Nativist argument: Accuracy (few ‘errors’) Efficiency (quick, easy) Uniformity (within and across languages) Constrained (POS). Poverty of the Stimulus. If (i) children know X, and

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Arguments for nativism l.jpg

Arguments for Nativism

Various other facts about child language add support to the Nativist argument:

  • Accuracy (few ‘errors’)

  • Efficiency (quick, easy)

  • Uniformity (within and across languages)

  • Constrained (POS)


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Poverty of the Stimulus

If

(i) children know X, and

(ii) evidence for X is not sufficiently present in the input to children,

then X must be innate.

 Children come to know things that they should not know, given what they hear.


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the

girl

is

in

the

market

Example of the POS: auxiliary inversion (Chomsky, 1971)

(1)


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Example of the POS: auxiliary inversion (Chomsky, 1971)

(1)

the

girl

is

in

the

market


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Example of the POS:auxiliary inversion (Chomsky, 1971)

(1)

Is

the

girl

[t]

in

the

market

?


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Principle of Y/N Question Formation:

 Move the auxiliary to the front of the sentence.

This works for 99% of the sentences in English. But not all…


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Sentences with Multiple Auxiliaries

John is in the house now that it is raining.


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Sentences with Multiple Auxiliaries

John is in the house now that it is raining.

Is John [t] in the house now that it is raining?


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Sentences with Multiple Auxiliaries

John is in the house now that it is raining.

Is John [t] in the house now that it is raining?

*Is John is in the house now that it [t] raining?


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Revised Principle of Y/N Question Formation:

 Move the first auxiliary to the front of the sentence.

The girls is in the market

John is in the house now that it is raining.


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But…

a.The child that is sitting on the floor is hungry.

b.*Is the child that [t] sitting on the floor is hungry?

c.Is the child that is sitting on the floor [t] hungry?


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So what’s the principle?

[The child that is sitting on the floor] is hungry.

[The child that is sitting on the floor]


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So what’s the principle?

Is [the child that is sitting on the floor] [t] hungry?


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So what’s the principle?

  • Linear Order Hypothesis (Incorrect):

    To make a yes-no question, front the first auxiliary.

  • Structural Dependency Hypothesis (Correct): In order to make a yes-no question, front the main auxiliary.


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How does a child learn this?

  • The child must hear sentences of the following kind:

    Is the child that is sitting on the floor hungry?

  • Nativists argue such evidence is stunningly rare in CDS.

  • Crain & Nakayama (1987) show children aged 3;2 have knowledge of this principle.


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Poverty of the Stimulus

At its heart, the POS argument is a problem of INDUCTION.

Induction: how do you go from individual examples to a generalized rule?


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Induction

A simple example:

1

2

What’s the next number in this progression?

3?

4?

7?


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The Induction Problem

  • You’re about to see 5 slides of 3 colored bars in frames.

  • The first 4 slides exhibit a property that you need to learn.

  • Decide whether or not the 5th slide exhibits the property in question.


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1


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2


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3


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4


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?


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Answer

  • NO

  • The property in question in whether the area covered by the bars is greater than 50% of the area of the rectangle.

  • This generalization is more natural for pigeons to learn than for humans.


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Try it again


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1


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2


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3


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4


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?


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Answer

  • YES

  • Property in question in whether the 3 bars are unequal in height.

  • This generalization is more natural for humans than for pigeons.


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Try it again


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1


Slide35 l.jpg

2


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3


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4


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?


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Answer

  • YES

  • You only saw examples decreasing in height from left to right. But the generalization was still that the bars only had to be different heights.


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Try it again


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1


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2


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3


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4


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?


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Answer

  • YES

  • Property in question is whether the 3 bars are unequal in height.

  • But what about the 4th example?

  • Oh, that? It was a mistake.


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The Induction Problem

  • You have to be able to discern the relevant dimension(s)

  • Any set of input data potentially allows an infinite number of generalizations.

  • How does an unbiased learner select the one correct hypothesis from amongst these infinite hypotheses?


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Returning to Yes-No Question Formation

  • Linear Order Hypothesis (Incorrect):

    To make a yes-no question, front the first auxiliary.

  • Structural Dependency Hypothesis (Correct):

    In order to make a yes-no question, front the main auxiliary.


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So how do kids learn the correct principle?


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Children are born with the knowledge that language is dependent on structure, not linear order.


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Lawn Bowling


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This is the current state of the field


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A ball is about to be bowled


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This is the final state of the field


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How did you get from the initial state to the final state?


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Lots of possibilities


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Which is the correct way to get from initial state to final state?


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So how do kids learn the correct principle?


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Children are born with the knowledge that language is dependent on structure, not linear order.


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The End


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