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The Competition Model Brian MacWhinney- CMU. Elizabeth Bates Csaba Pl é h Mich è le Kail Janet McDonald Antonella Devescovi Klaus-Michael K ö pcke Kerry Kilborn Takehiro Ito Ovid Tzeng Judit Osman-S á gi Jeffrey Sokolov Beverly Wulfeck Vera Kempe Arturo Hernandez Ping Li

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The competition model brian macwhinney cmu l.jpg

The Competition ModelBrian MacWhinney- CMU

Elizabeth Bates Csaba Pléh Michèle Kail

Janet McDonald Antonella Devescovi Klaus-Michael Köpcke

Kerry Kilborn Takehiro Ito Ovid Tzeng

Judit Osman-Sági Jeffrey Sokolov Beverly Wulfeck

Vera Kempe Arturo Hernandez Ping Li

Yoshinori Sasaki

Empirical Results Published in:

MacWhinney, B., & Bates, E. (Eds.) The crosslinguistic study of sentence processing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

15 articles since then

1 the input l.jpg
1. The Input

  • A. Lexical Functionalism -- constructions

  • B. Input-driven Learning -- cues, frequencies

    • Cue validity predicts cue strength

      [p(function)|form] - comprehension

      [p(form)|function] - production

2 the learner l.jpg
2. The Learner

  • Distributed representations -> transfer

  • Emergent modularity

    • Neuronal commitment, automaticity

  • Capacity

    • Functional neural circuits

    • Perspective-taking

3 the context l.jpg
3. The Context

  • Classroom context

    • Negative feedback is positive feedback

    • Instructional format interacts with learner characteristics

  • Role of computerized instruction

  • Setting up input contexts

    • Role of lexical richness

    • Learner must learn how to learn

1a lexical functionalism l.jpg
1A. Lexical Functionalism


(cue, device)


(role, meaning)

Competition between devices competition between interpretations l.jpg
Competition between devicesCompetition between interpretations












Cue validity cue strength cues interpretations comprehension meanings devices production l.jpg
Cue validity -> cue strengthCues -> Interpretations ComprehensionMeanings -> Devices Production












Some cues l.jpg
Some cues

The tiger pushes the bear.

The bear the tiger pushes.

Pushes the tiger the bear.

The dogs the eraser push.

The dogs the eraser pushes.

The cat push the dogs.

Il gatto spingono i cani.

The dog was chased by the cat l.jpg
The dog was chased by the cat.

  • Comprehension - Interpretations compete

    Agent: The dog vs. the cat

    Patient: The dog vs. the cat

  • Production - Devices compete

    Dog placement: preverbal, postverbal, by-clause

    Cat placement: preverbal, postverbal, by-clause

Cue interactions l.jpg
Cue interactions

  • Peaceful coexistence

  • Cue coalitions

  • Competition between interpretations during comprehension

  • Competition between devices during production

  • Change from category leakage and reinterpretation

Cues vary across languages l.jpg
Cues vary across languages

English: The pig loves the farmer

SV > VO > Agreement

German: Das Schwein liebt den Bauer.

Den Bauer liebt das Schwein

Case > Agreement > Animacy>Word Order

Spanish: El cerdo quiere al campesino.

Al campesino le quiere el cerdo.

"Case" > Agreement > Clitic > Animacy > Word Order

Exotic patterns l.jpg
Exotic Patterns


*Yas lééchaa’í yi-stin.

snow dog him-frooze.

Lééchaaa’ yas bi-stin

dog snow him-frooze

7-level hierachy of Animacy -- switch reference

Basic results l.jpg
Basic results

  • Reliable Cues Dominate

  • Cue Strengths Summate

  • Competition Cells show most variability

Ungrammaticality l.jpg

  • Continuity for pockets of grammaticality

    • Hungarian possessive for accusative

    • Croatian neutralized case in masculine

    • Japanese “wa” marking

  • Slowdown for grammatical sentences in Russian, Hungarian, Spanish without the “preferred cue”

  • Cue summation for pronominal processing

  • Cue validity low levels l.jpg
    Cue validity (low levels)

    • Task frequency

      F(task T) / F(all tasks)

    • Simple availability (relative availability of a cue for a given task)

      F(times when cue A is present)

      The cat chases the dog.

    • Contrast availability

      F(cue A present ^ cue A contrasts)

      The cat chases the dogs.

    Cue validity high levels l.jpg
    Cue validity (high levels)

    • Simple reliability

      Reliable if always leads to right functional choice

      F(cue A present ^ cue A contrasts ^ cue A correct) / F (cue A present^cue A contrasts)

    • Conflict reliability

      In certain contexts, one cue will be more reliable

      F(cue A conflicts with other cue ^ cue A wins) /

      F(cue A conflicts with any cue)

    • SA -> CA -> SR -> CR transition

    Cue validity vs cue strength l.jpg
    Cue validity vs. cue strength

    • Cue validity is based on (tedious) counts of texts

    • Cue strength is first assessed through ANOVA analyses in Competition Model experiments

    • Cue strength is then modeled using MLE

    Mle models of cue strength l.jpg
    MLE models of cue strength

    • P (first noun) = ∏ S i (first) /∏ S j (others)

    • Two choice case

      P (first noun) =

      ∏ S i (first) /∏ S i (first) + ∏ S j (second)

      Models vary number of parameters and can be additive or multiplicative

    Pronouns an online example l.jpg
    Pronouns - an online example

    MacDonald and MacWhinney (1989)

    Just before dawn, Lisa was fishing with Ron in the boat,

    and she caught a big trout right away.

    and lots of big trout were biting.

    • Priming of referent at 500 msec for unambiguous gender.

    • Slowdown in processing of probes right at 0msec delay when there is a gender contrast only.

    Pronouns implicit causality l.jpg
    Pronouns - implicit causality

    McDonald and MacWhinney (1994)

    Probes presented at 4 Delay Times: D1 D2 D3 D4

    * 100 * pro * 200 * end * Gary amazed Ellen time after time, because he was so talented.N1 V N2 filler , because PRO predicate.Probes: referent Gary non-referent Ellen distractor Frank verb amazed

    Joel admires Susan because she is so fabulous.

    Results and competition l.jpg
    Results and Competition

    1. Slowdown in processing of probes at pronoun when there is a contrast.

    2. Facilitation from pronoun onwards when first noun advantage agrees with implicit causality.

    3. Activation of N2 right at the pronoun for E-S verbs!

    4. Standard Competition Model cue summations and competitions, all right when they should occur.

    2 the learner27 l.jpg
    2. The Learner

    • Distributed representations -> transfer

    • Emergent modularity

      • Neuronal commitment, automaticity

    • Capacity

      • Functional neural circuits

      • Perspective-taking

        The black dog is going to the market with his owner.

    Parasitic learning kroll l.jpg
    Parasitic Learning -- Kroll

    Translation route



    The revised hierarchical model kroll stewart 1994 l.jpg
    The Revised Hierarchical ModelKroll & Stewart, 1994

    Transfer l.jpg

    • Principle: Everything that “can transfer” will.

    • Connectionism predicts transfer

    • Word order can transfer

    • Phonology can transfer

    • Meaning can transfer

    • Morphological markings cannot

    • Early bilinguals as mixed

    Transfer beyond the word l.jpg
    Transfer beyond the word

    • I want to go to school.

    • Yo querer ir a escuela.

    • I would like to go to school.

    • (I) would-like to-go to the-school.

    • xx quer-rí-a ir a la-escuela.

    • Do you want to eat at my house?

    • You want not want at me eat, huh?

    • Translation with feedback may not be so bad.


    Problems with transfer l.jpg
    Problems with Transfer

    • Lexical concepts

      “sibling” in Dutch = brother or sister

    • Broadness of application of translation equivalents

      glass in English, vidrio or vaso in Spanish

      car - “achterbak” or “kofferbak”

      tree -“stam” or “boomstronk”

      body - “romp”

      snout - “slurf”

    More problems with transfer l.jpg
    More Problems with Transfer

    • Grammatical expression of certain aspects of experience

      The boy had fallen from the tree and his dog was hovering over him

    • Semantic boundaries differ across languages

      prepositions (Ijaz, 1986)

      Germans under-emphasize contact and over-emphasize movement for “on”

      German “auf” means “up”

    Emergent modularity l.jpg
    Emergent modularity

    • Growing modules

      • Farah and McClelland

      • Jacobs, Jordan, Barto

    • Kim et al. fMRI study

    Capacity restrictions l.jpg
    Capacity restrictions

    • Detectability

    • Complexity (for production)

    • Assignability (memory load)

    • Online load minimization

      • One good cue is enough (Russian, Spanish)

      • Waiting for a reliable cue: Russian, Hungarian

      • No use waiting for cue that will not be reliable,

        German die Frau küßt der ...

    Some generalizations l.jpg
    Some generalizations

    • Children learn the most valid cues first.

    • Aphasics preserve the most valid cues.

      They also rigidify on the strongest devices

    • L2 learners attempt transfer, but then learn cues. They gradually reach L1 levels of cue strength.

    • Connectionism predicts transfer.

    3 the context46 l.jpg
    3. The Context

    Providing negative evidence

    Open issues l.jpg
    Open issues

    • Neuronal Commitment

    • Social Identification

    • Resonance

    • Setting up Input Contexts

    Conclusions l.jpg

    • Models of Input, Learner, and Context must interlock

    • Competition Model is properly accounts for what we know about language learning, but

    • The model must be developed still further.