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Ling 240: Language and Mind Structure Dependence in Grammar Formation.

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1 Ling 240: Language and Mind Structure Dependence in Grammar Formation

2 TWO HYPOTHESES ABOUT YES/NO QUESTIONS How do we form yes/no Qs? a. The man is tall.  Is the man tall? b. The book is on the table.  Is the book on the table? c. I can go.  Can I go?

3 Move the first Aux Move the first Aux Move the first Aux The ordinal order of X is determined by position in a sequence => a structure independent The ordinal order of X is determined by position in a sequence => a structure independent A structure independent rule ignores higher-order structural units, relying only on linear order A structure independent rule ignores higher-order structural units, relying only on linear order

4 Does ‘Move the first Aux’ rule work? ‘Move the first Aux’ rule doesn’t work when there is more than one Aux (1) The man who is tall is in the other room. which becomes: (2) *Is the man who ___ tall is in the other room? (3) Is the man who is tall ___ in the other room?

5 Structure Dependent the correct hypothesis must therefore recognize the internal structure of sentences Move the highest Aux The height of X is determined by the number of nodes that dominate X => structure dependent The height of X is determined by the number of nodes that dominate X => structure dependent

6 UG narrows down the hypotheses space Input is compatible with infinite number of hypotheses Input is compatible with infinite number of hypotheses Claim: Innate principles (and parameters) guide learning (Universal Claim: Innate principles (and parameters) guide learning (Universal Grammar) Grammar) Prediction: children will not make types of errors that violate UG principles Prediction: children will not make types of errors that violate UG principles

7 Summary: Adult Mental Grammar of English Rule: Move the highest Aux. Rule: Move the highest Aux. Mental Grammar only allows the structure- dependent version of the rule. Mental Grammar only allows the structure- dependent version of the rule. What do kids do? What types of mistakes do they make? (Crain & Nakayama 1987) What do kids do? What types of mistakes do they make? (Crain & Nakayama 1987)

8 Do children ever consider “move the first” rule? Null hypothesis: children do not have innate grammatical knowledge that makes them ignore structure-independent rules. Null hypothesis: children do not have innate grammatical knowledge that makes them ignore structure-independent rules. Prediction: children should consider the “move the first” rule, because the rule is simple, concrete and perfectly compatible with their experience. Prediction: children should consider the “move the first” rule, because the rule is simple, concrete and perfectly compatible with their experience.

9 Crain and Nakayama 1987 “Elicited production” experiment “Elicited production” experiment Participants: English-speaking children (N=30, Age: 3;2 – 5;11) Participants: English-speaking children (N=30, Age: 3;2 – 5;11) Group 1: 3;2 – 4;7 (Mean 4;3) Group 1: 3;2 – 4;7 (Mean 4;3) Group 2: 4;7 – 5;11 (Mean 5;11) Group 2: 4;7 – 5;11 (Mean 5;11)

10 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Hey Tommy, look at this! Look at this picture!

11 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Tommy, do you think the girl is tall?

12 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Noooo! She is not tall!

13 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Yeah I agree…but I wonder what Jabba would say…

14 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Hey Tommy, why don’t you ask Jabba if the girl is tall? Ask Jabba if the girl is tall!

15 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt Is the girl tall?

16 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt No…

17 Experimenter Tommy Jabba the Hutt He was right! Tommy, give him a strawberry!

18 Materials Pretest sentences: to ensure that children understood the task and could form simple yes/no questions. Pretest sentences: to ensure that children understood the task and could form simple yes/no questions. a.The girl is tall b.The man is tired c.The pig next to the tree is red

19 Materials Test sentences Test sentences a.[The dog that is sleeping] is on the blue bench. a.[The dog that is sleeping] is on the blue bench. b.[The ball that the girl is sitting on] is big. c.[The boy who is watching Mickey Mouse] is happy. d.[The boy who is unhappy] is watching Mickey Mouse. e.[The boy who is being kissed by his mother] is happy. f.[The boy who was holding the plate] is crying.

20 “Ungrammatical” questions We are interested in whether children consider the “move the first” rule… We are interested in whether children consider the “move the first” rule… *Was the boy who __ watching TV is crying?  structure-independent, or “TYPE III” error *Was the boy who __ watching TV is crying?  structure-independent, or “TYPE III” error

21 “Ungrammatical” questions “Good” results would be “Good” results would be If children never made any ungrammatical questions at all. Even stronger results would be: Even stronger results would be: If children made various ungrammatical questions, but they never made TYPE III errors.

22 Results I: did they make ungrammatical questions? YES. YES. GrammaticalUngrammatical Group I81 31 (38%) 50 (62%) Group II87 70 (80%) 17 (20%) Total (60%) 67 (40%)

23 Are there any Type III (structure- independent) errors? Was the boy who __ watching TV is crying? Was the boy who __ watching TV is crying? Type IType IIType III Group I30(60%)10 (20%) 0 Group II 9 (53%) 5 (29%) 0 Type I = extra Aux. Is the boy who is watching TV is happy? Type II Restart. *Is the boy who is watching TV, is he happy? *Was the boy who __ watching TV is crying?  structure-independent, or “TYPE III” error

24 Children never made Type III errors. suggests that they never consider structure-independent movement rules: “move the first…”. suggests that they never consider structure-independent movement rules: “move the first…”.

25 Do children ever consider “move the first” rule? Null hypothesis: children do not have innate grammatical knowledge that makes them ignore structure-independent rules. Null hypothesis: children do not have innate grammatical knowledge that makes them ignore structure-independent rules. Prediction: children should consider the “move the first” rule, because the rule is simple and perfectly compatible with their experience. Prediction: children should consider the “move the first” rule, because the rule is simple and perfectly compatible with their experience.

26 Remaining question Could they get the right pattern from input directed to them? (Legate & Yang 2002) Could they get the right pattern from input directed to them? (Legate & Yang 2002)

27 The CHILDES database A huge database of spontaneous speech by young children (age 2 – 6) A huge database of spontaneous speech by young children (age 2 – 6) Transcriptions of parent-child linguistic interactions Transcriptions of parent-child linguistic interactions What kinds of questions do children hear from adults? What kinds of questions do children hear from adults?

28 Legate and Yang (2002) Child: Adam (2;7 - ) Child: Adam (2;7 - ) Total parental utterances:46,499 Total parental utterances:46,499 Number of questions:20,651 Number of questions:20,651 The crucial sentences: 0 The crucial sentences: 0

29 Child-directed speech does not involve the crucial data Is John happy? Is John happy? is = the first, and the highest Is the boy who was watching TV crying? Is the boy who was watching TV crying? is = NOT the first, but the highest

30 So… Input directed to children does not involve the crucial data to distinguish “move the first Aux” from “move the highest Aux” Input directed to children does not involve the crucial data to distinguish “move the first Aux” from “move the highest Aux” Therefore, the input does not tell children that “move the first” is wrong. Therefore, the input does not tell children that “move the first” is wrong. Innate linguistic knowledge /UG (Universal Grammar) Innate linguistic knowledge /UG (Universal Grammar) UG restricts the range of possible rules that children consider in the course of language acquisition UG restricts the range of possible rules that children consider in the course of language acquisition


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