ERIC Number: EJ778764
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003-Sep
Reference Count: 0
Language Learning and Innateness: Some Implications of "Compounds Research"
Haskell, Todd R.; MacDonald, Maryellen C.; Seidenberg, Mark S.
Cognitive Psychology, v47 n2 p119-163 Sep 2003
In noun compounds in English, the modifying noun may be singular ("mouse-eater") or an irregularly inflected plural ("mice-eater"), but regularly inflected plurals are dispreferred (*"rats-eater"). This phenomenon has been taken as strong evidence for dual-mechanism theories of lexical representations, which hold that regular (rule-governed) and irregular (exception) items are generated by qualitatively different and innately specified mechanisms. Using corpus analyses, behavioral studies, and computational modeling, we show that the rule-versus-exceptions approach makes a number of incorrect predictions. We propose a new account in which the acceptability of modifiers is determined by a constraint satisfaction process modulated by semantic, phonological, and other factors. The constraints are acquired by the child via general purpose learning algorithms, based on noun compounds and other constructions in the input. The account obviates the regular/irregular dichotomy while simultaneously providing a superior account of the data.
Descriptors: Nouns, Computational Linguistics, Grammar, Language Acquisition, Language Research, English, Semantics, Phonology, Learning Processes, Child Language
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
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