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Creating LanguageIntegrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing$
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Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034319

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034319.001.0001

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Language Acquisition through Multiple-Cue Integration

Language Acquisition through Multiple-Cue Integration

(p.137) 5 Language Acquisition through Multiple-Cue Integration
Creating Language

Morten H. Christiansen

Nick Chater

The MIT Press

Chapter 5 proposes that language has evolved to rely on a multitude of probabilistic information sources for its acquisition, allowing language to be as expressive as possible while still being learnable by domain- general learning mechanisms. The structure of the vocabulary is used a case study, revealing a complex relationship between systematicity and arbitrariness in the mapping between the sound of a word and its meaning. Results from corpus analyses, computational modeling, and human experimentation reveal that systematicity may not only help the child learn early word meanings but can also facilitate the acquisition of basic aspects of syntax. A probabilistic relationship exists between what a word sounds like and how it is used: nouns tend to sound like other nouns and verbs like other verbs. Importantly, these sources of phonological information, or “cues,” not only play an important role in language acquisition but also affect syntactic processing in adulthood. Thus, the integration of phonological cues with other types of information is integral to the computational architecture of our language system.

Keywords:   Multiple-cue integration, Vocabulary structure, Sound-meaning arbitrariness, Sound-meaning systematicity, Phonological cues

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