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Verb Learning and Cross-Linguistic Variation (research with Meesook Kim, Barbara Landau, Beth Rabbin)

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1 Verb Learning and Cross-Linguistic Variation (research with Meesook Kim, Barbara Landau, Beth Rabbin)

2 Learning Verb Syntax “Locative Verbs” Sally poured the water into the glass. Sally poured the glass with water. Sally filled the water into the glass. Sally filled the glass with water. Sally loaded the boxes into the truck. Sally loaded the truck with boxes.

3 Seidenberg (1997, Science) Locative Verb Constructions –John poured the water into the cup *John poured the cup with water –*Sue filled the water into the glass Sue filled the glass with water –Bill loaded the apples onto the truck Bill loaded the truck with apples “Connectionist networks are well suited to capturing systems with this character. Importantly, a network configured as a device that learns to perform a task such as mapping from sound to meaning will act as a discovery procedure, determining which kinds of information are relevant. Evidence that such models can encode precisely the right combinations of probabilistic constraints is provided by Allen (42), who implemented a network that learns about verbs and their argument structures from naturalistic input.” (p. 1602)

4 Seidenberg (Science, 3/14/97) “Research on language has arrived at a particularly interesting point, however, because of important developments outside of the linguistic mainstream that are converging on a different view of the nature of language. These developments represent an important turn of events in the history of ideas about language.” (p. 1599)

5 Seidenberg (Science, 3/14/97) “A second implication concerns the relevance of poverty-of-the-stimulus arguments to other aspects of language. Verbs and their argument structures are important, but they are language specific rather than universal properties of languages and so must be learned from experience.” (p. 1602)

6 Allen’s Model Fine-grained distinction between hit, carry John kicked Mary the ball *John carried Mary the basket “This behavior shows crucially that the network is not merely sensitive to overall semantic similarity: rather, the network has organized the semantic space such that some features are more important than other.” (p. 5)

7 Terminology Sally poured the water into the glass Sally filled the glass with the water moving object FIGURE location GROUND location GROUND moving object FIGURE Figure Frame Ground Frame

8 VP VNPPP pour figure ground VP VNPPP pour figureground VP VNPPP fill figure ground VP VNPPP fill figureground VP VNPPP load figure ground VP VNPPP load figureground VP-Structures

9 How could this be learned? How could a child figure out which structures are possible for which verbs? ‘Conservative’ strategy - only allow verbs with structures heard in input ‘Do not generalize!’

10 But... Children make errors - they overgeneralize ‘I’m going to cover a screen over me.’ ‘Can I fill some salt in the bear?’ Adults have clear intuitions about novel verbs: e.g. ladle, scoop Hearing ‘errors’ doesn’t obviously change our judgments e.g. ‘*John decorated the lights onto the tree.’ Not clear that all possible syntactic forms are well- represented in the input to learners Conservative learning doesn’t seem to do the trick

11 ‘Overgeneralization’ Well-known errors with locative verbs (Bowerman 1982) I didn't fill water up to drink it; I filled it up for the flowers to drink it. Can I fill some salt in the bear? [= a bear-shaped salt shaker] I'm going to cover a screen over me. (see also experimental data in Gropen et al. 1991a, b) Why do children make these errors?

12 Verb Classes Verb semantics predicts verb syntax

13 Classes of Verbs Verbs with syntax like pour –dribble, drip, spill, shake, spin, spew, slop, etc. Verbs with syntax like fill –cover, decorate, bandage, blanket, soak, drench, adorn, etc. Verbs with syntax like load –stuff, cram, jam, spray, sow, heap, spread, rub, dab, plaster, etc.

14 Classes of Verbs Verbs with syntax like pour –dribble, drip, spill, shake, spin, spew, slop, etc. Verbs with syntax like fill –cover, decorate, bandage, blanket, soak, drench, adorn, etc. Verbs with syntax like load –stuff, cram, jam, spray, sow, heap, spread, rub, dab, plaster, etc. manner-of-motion

15 Classes of Verbs Verbs with syntax like pour –dribble, drip, spill, shake, spin, spew, slop, etc. Verbs with syntax like fill –cover, decorate, bandage, blanket, soak, drench, adorn, etc. Verbs with syntax like load –stuff, cram, jam, spray, sow, heap, spread, rub, dab, plaster, etc. manner-of-motion change-of-state

16 Classes of Verbs Verbs with syntax like pour –dribble, drip, spill, shake, spin, spew, slop, etc. Verbs with syntax like fill –cover, decorate, bandage, blanket, soak, drench, adorn, etc. Verbs with syntax like load –stuff, cram, jam, spray, sow, heap, spread, rub, dab, plaster, etc. manner-of-motion change-of-state manner-of-motion & change-of-state

17 Learning Syntax from Semantics Manner-of -motion Change-of -state SEMANTICSSYNTAX

18 Learning Syntax from Semantics Manner-of -motion VP VNPPP figure ground Change-of -state Figure Frame SEMANTICSSYNTAX

19 Learning Syntax from Semantics Manner-of -motion VP VNPPP figure ground VP VNPPP figureground Change-of -state Figure Frame Ground Frame SEMANTICSSYNTAX

20 Learning Syntax from Semantics Manner-of -motion VP VNPPP figure ground VP VNPPP figureground Change-of -state Figure Frame Ground Frame Linking Rules SEMANTICSSYNTAX

21 Learning Linking Rules can be used to ‘bootstrap’ verb syntax or verb meanings, provided that Syntax-Semantics Linking Rules are –consistent across languages (i.e. verbs with same meaning should have same syntax across all languages) –innate (i.e. children know the connections from the outset)

22 Assumption: linking generalizations are universal Shared by opposing accounts of learning verb syntax & semantics

23 Evidence: Syntax from Semantics Gropen et al., 1991 Children shown a verb’s meaning, in the absence of subcategorization information. Demonstration focuses on (i) manner, or (ii) change of state. “This is keating” Meaning changes how children describe events

24 Evidence: Semantics from Syntax Studies by Gleitman with Naigles, Fisher, Gillette, etc. Children shown a scene, together with a description that provides syntactic information “Look, the bunny is filping” “Look, the monkey is filping the bunny.” Form changes how children interpret the events

25 Limitations Semantics < Syntax Syntactic distinctions are too coarse-grained Need evidence of ability to use multiple frames Syntax < Semantics Observation puzzles remain

26 But Languages Vary English *John decorated the flowers in the room. John decorated the room with flowers.

27 But Languages Vary English *John decorated the flowers in the room. John decorated the room with flowers. Change-of-state --> Ground Frame

28 But Languages Vary English *John decorated the flowers in the room. John decorated the room with flowers. Korean Yumi-kaccoch-ul pang-ey cangsikha-yess-ta Nomflowers-Acc room-Loc decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the flowers in the room.’ Yumi-kapang-ul ccoch-ulo cangsikha-yess-ta Nomroom-Acc flowers-with decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the room with flowers.’ Change-of-state --> Ground Frame

29 But Languages Vary English *John decorated the flowers in the room. John decorated the room with flowers. Korean Yumi-kaccoch-ul pang-ey cangsikha-yess-ta Nomflowers-Acc room-Loc decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the flowers in the room.’ Yumi-kapang-ul ccoch-ulo cangsikha-yess-ta Nomroom-Acc flowers-with decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the room with flowers.’ Change-of-state --> Ground Frame

30 But Languages Vary English *John decorated the flowers in the room. John decorated the room with flowers. Korean Yumi-kaccoch-ul pang-ey cangsikha-yess-ta Nomflowers-Acc room-Loc decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the flowers in the room.’ Yumi-kapang-ul ccoch-ulo cangsikha-yess-ta Nomroom-Acc flowers-with decorate-Past-Dec ‘John decorated the room with flowers.’ Change-of-state --> Ground Frame Korean is more liberal than English

31 English John piled the books on the shelf. John piled the shelf with books. But Languages Vary

32 English John piled the books on the shelf. John piled the shelf with books. Korean Yumi-kachaek-lulchaeksang-eyssa-ass-ta. Nombook-Acctable-Locpile-Past-Dec ‘Yumi piled books on the table.’ But Languages Vary

33 English John piled the books on the shelf. John piled the shelf with books. Korean Yumi-kachaek-lulchaeksang-eyssa-ass-ta. Nombook-Acctable-Locpile-Past-Dec ‘Yumi piled books on the table.’ *Yumi-kachaeksang-lulchaek-elossa-ass-ta. Nom table-Acc books-withpile-Past-Dec ‘Yumi piled the table with books.’ But Languages Vary

34 English John piled the books on the shelf. John piled the shelf with books. Korean Yumi-kachaek-lulchaeksang-eyssa-ass-ta. Nombook-Acctable-Locpile-Past-Dec ‘Yumi piled books on the table.’ *Yumi-kachaeksang-lulchaek-elossa-ass-ta. Nom table-Acc books-withpile-Past-Dec ‘Yumi piled the table with books.’ But Languages Vary Korean is more restrictive than English

35 Learning Syntax from Semantics Manner-of -motion VP VNPPP figure ground VP VNPPP figureground Change-of -state Figure Frame Ground Frame Linking Rules SEMANTICSSYNTAX

36 Learning Syntax from Semantics Appropriate verb syntax can be learned if the Syntax-Semantics Linking Rules are –consistent across languages (i.e. verbs with same meaning should have same syntax across all languages) –innate (i.e. children know the connections from the outset)

37 A Problem for Learners? If syntax-semantics Linking Rules are not uniform across languages, then how can they help learners? If each language had different Linking Rules, would this be any use to a child?

38 Cross-Language Survey Survey I EnglishTurkish KoreanLuganda FrenchHindi JapaneseHebrew ChineseMalay ThaiArabic Survey II ItalianYoruba PolishEwe JapaneseRussian FrenchEnglish Brazilian Portuguese Spanish (Argentinian) Spanish (Castilian)

39 Cross-Language Survey Survey I EnglishTurkish KoreanLuganda FrenchHindi JapaneseHebrew ChineseMalay ThaiArabic Survey II ItalianYoruba PolishEwe JapaneseRussian FrenchEnglish Brazilian Portuguese Spanish (Argentinian) Spanish (Castilian) Less detailed classification used (~15 verbs)

40 Cross-Language Survey Survey I EnglishTurkish KoreanLuganda FrenchHindi JapaneseHebrew ChineseMalay ThaiArabic Survey II ItalianYoruba PolishEwe JapaneseRussian FrenchEnglish Brazilian Portuguese Spanish (Argentinian) Spanish (Castilian) More detailed classification used (~30 verbs)

41 Extra Constructions in Survey II VP-Syntax - is PP required? She poured the water into the glass. She poured the water. She stood the lamp on the floor. *She stood the lamp.

42 Extra Constructions in Survey II VP-Syntax - is PP required? She poured the water into the glass. She poured the water. She stood the lamp on the floor. *She stood the lamp. ‘F’ class ‘F2’ class

43 Extra Constructions in Survey II VP-Syntax - is PP required? She poured the water into the glass. She poured the water. She stood the lamp on the floor. *She stood the lamp. ‘F’ class ‘F2’ class Also ‘G’,‘G2’, FA, GA, PA classes distinguished

44 Extra Constructions in Survey II NP-Syntax - passive adjectives The poured water The filled glass *The piled shelf *The decorated ornament

45 Full details available separately

46 Reminder: the issues Use of structure in lexical entries to guide learning, i.e. reliable syntax-semantics correlations can be used to draw inferences Idea that cross-language regularities hold the key to understanding language learning

47 Consistent Properties...

48 A Universal English John poured the water into the glass. *John poured the glass with water. Spanish Juanvertíaguaen el vaso. John poured water into the glass *Juanvertí el vaso con agua. Johnpoured the glass with water

49 A Universal English John poured the water into the glass. *John poured the glass with water. Hebrew Dannyshafaxmayimletoxha-kos. Johnpouredwaterintothe glass ‘John poured water into the glass.’ *Dannyshafaxet ha-kosbe-mayin. JohnpouredAcc the glasswith water ‘*John poured the glass with water.’

50 A Universal English John poured the water into the glass. *John poured the glass with water. Japanese Taro-gamizu-obaketu-nisosoi-da. Nomwater-Accbucket-Locpour-Past ‘Taro poured water into a bucket.’ *Taro-gabaketu-omizu-desosoi-da. Nombucket-Accwater-withpour-Past ‘*Taro poured a bucket with water.’

51 A Universal Manner-of -motion VP VNPPP figure ground Figure Frame SEMANTICSSYNTAX

52 Also Consistent... ‘VP-syntax’ She poured the water. *She leaned the bike. She scattered the seeds. *She scattered the field. *She stuffed the feathers. She stuffed the pillow. ‘NP-syntax’ The poured water. *The leaned bike. The scattered seeds. *The scattered field. *The stuffed feathers. The stuffed pillow.

53 Also Consistent... ‘VP-syntax’ She poured the water. *She leaned the bike. She scattered the seeds. *She scattered the field. *She stuffed the feathers. She stuffed the pillow. ‘NP-syntax’ The poured water. *The leaned bike. The scattered seeds. *The scattered field. *The stuffed feathers. The stuffed pillow. All ok when PP present

54 Also Consistent... ‘VP-syntax’ She poured the water. *She leaned the bike. She scattered the seeds. *She scattered the field. *She stuffed the feathers. She stuffed the pillow. ‘NP-syntax’ The poured water. *The leaned bike. The scattered seeds. *The scattered field. *The stuffed feathers. The stuffed pillow. All ok when PP presentPassive adjective ok when PP optional

55 Consistent Variation...

56 A Two-way Split English *He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights French Spanish Malay Arabic Hebrew Korean He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights Chinese Japanese Thai Turkish Hindi Luganda

57 ‘Serial Verbs’ (Verb Compounds) Japanese John-gaBill-oosi-taosi-ta. Nom Accpush-topple-Past ‘John pushed Bill down.’ Igbo (W. Africa) Adhasi-rianuri-e Adacook-aspmeateat-asp ‘Ada cooked the meat and ate it.’(Igbo)

58 ‘Serial Verbs’ (Verb Compounds) Japanese John-gaBill-oosi-taosi-ta. Nom Accpush-topple-Past ‘John pushed Bill down.’ Igbo (W. Africa) Adhasi-rianuri-e Adacook-aspmeateat-asp ‘Ada cooked the meat and ate it.’(Igbo)

59 ‘Serial Verbs’ (Verb Compounds) Japanese John-gaBill-oosi-taosi-ta. Nom Accpush-topple-Past ‘John pushed Bill down.’ Igbo (W. Africa) Adhasi-rianuri-e Adacook-aspmeateat-asp ‘Ada cooked the meat and ate it.’(Igbo) Easy to observe!

60 A Parameter English *He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights French Spanish Malay Arabic Hebrew Korean He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights Chinese Japanese Thai Turkish Hindi Luganda

61 A Parameter English *He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights French Spanish Malay Arabic Hebrew Korean He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights Chinese Japanese Thai Turkish Hindi Luganda Allow Serial Verbs

62 A Parameter English *He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights French Spanish Malay Arabic Hebrew Korean He decorated lights on the tree He decorated the tree with lights Chinese Japanese Thai Turkish Hindi Luganda Allow Serial Verbs Don’t Allow Serial Verbs

63 A Parameter VP VNPPP figure ground VP VNPPP figureground Change-of -state Figure Frame Ground Frame SEMANTICSSYNTAX

64 A Parameter VP VNPPP figure ground VP VNPPP figureground Change-of -state Figure Frame Ground Frame SEMANTICSSYNTAX Serial Verbs?

65 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish

66 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘I ate-it the-bread’

67 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘I ate-it the-bread’

68 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘lo mangio il panino’

69 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘lo comio el pan’

70 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘lo comio el pan’

71 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘ele eu comi o paõ’

72 A Second Parameter Non-serializing I Many alternators English Italian Argentinian Spanish Non-serializing II Few alternators Polish Brazilian Portuguese Castilian Spanish Object Clitic Doubling ‘zjadwem go chleb’

73 Further Variation In most languages surveyed, figure verbs like lean, stand, stick, require an overt PP *The boy leaned his bicycle. *The girl stood the lamp. In certain languages (e.g. Italian, Polish) the PP is optional. Currently unexplained.

74 Further Variation Some further cross-language differences can be attributed to the lack of perfect semantic cognates … but such cases are fairly rare

75 Quantitatively... Sample of ~2000 judgments in 20 languages A small number of principles & parameters allows us to predict ~90% of judgments In some classes accuracy is much higher: basic Figure class, Ground class, etc. In some classes accuracy is somewhat lower at present: Ground Alternator, ‘Pure’ Alternator

76 Interim Conclusions Knowing the meaning of a verb does not predict the verb’s syntax, BUT… Knowing the meaning of a verb, together with further syntactic knowledge about the language, does predict the verb’s syntax rather well The Verb Classes paradigm can be extended cross-linguistically, but only in conjunction with an understanding of abstract syntactic properties Many questions remain unanswered...

77 Affectedness Pinker (1989, etc.): generalizations about figure and ground frames reduce to the notion of affected object: (i) manner-of-motion affects figure (ii) change-of-state affects ground Can this be saved in light of cross-language variation?

78 Challenges Allen’s results are impressive; the model is interesting in the way that it poses the learning task as a selection process (the linking rules do not emerge from nowhere) Fine-grained distinctions in English ‘Concealed’ distinctions in Korean Reason for universals

79 Challenges Fine-grained distinctions, e.g. in English pour the water into the glass pour the water the poured water stand the lamp on the floor *stand the lamp *the stood lamp

80 Challenges ‘Concealed’ distinctions, e.g. in Korean pour the water into the glass *pour the glass with water pile the books onto the shelf *pile the shelf with books *pour-put the glass with water pile-put the shelf with books

81 Challenges Universals, parametric connections - why should they exist and be stable?

82 Summary Allen & Seidenberg (1997): statistical learning in a connectionist model makes it possible to infer correct linking rules, based only on (i) knowing that semantic features are relevant, (ii) being provided with a large set of candidate features. If learning linking rules involves selection of semantic features, then –there should be more cross-language variation in the critical features –there should not be systematic syntactic links between constructions –‘concealed’ effects of universal semantic classes should be unlearnable


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