Children often refer to things ambiguously but learn not to from responding to clarification requests. We review and explore this learning process here. In Study 1, eighty-four 2- and 4-year-olds were tested for their ability to request stickers from either (a) a small array with one dissimilar distracter or (b) a large array containing similar distracters. When children made ambiguous requests, they received either general feedback or specific questions about which of two options they wanted. With training, children learned to (...) produce more complex object descriptions and did so faster in the specific feedback condition. They also tended to provide more information when requesting stickers from large arrays. In Study 2, we varied only distracter similarity during training and then varied array size in a generalization test. Children found it harder to learn in this case. In the generalization test, 4-year-olds were more likely to provide information (a) when it was needed because distracters were similar to the target and (b) when the array size was greater (regardless of need for information). We discuss how clear cues to potential ambiguity are needed for children to learn to tailor their referring expression to context and how several cues of heuristic value (e.g., more distracters > say more) can promote the efficiency of communication while language is developing. Finally, we consider whether it would be worthwhile drawing on the human learning process when developing algorithms for the production of referring expressions. (shrink)
Theoretical and empirical reasons suggest that children build their language not only out of individual words but also out of multiunit strings. These are the basis for the development of schemas containing slots. The slots are putative categories that build in abstraction while the schemas eventually connect to other schemas in terms of both meaning and form. Evidence comes from the nature of the input, the ways in which children construct novel utterances, the systematic errors that children make, and the (...) computational modeling of children's grammars. However, much of this research is on English, which is unusual in its rigid word order and impoverished inflectional morphology. We summarize these results and explore their implications for languages with more flexible word order and/or much richer inflectional morphology. (shrink)
Mintz (2003) found that in English child-directed speech, frequently occurring frames formed by linking the preceding (A) and succeeding (B) word (A_x_B) could accurately predict the syntactic category of the intervening word (x). This has been successfully extended to French (Chemla, Mintz, Bernal, & Christophe, 2009). In this paper, we show that, as for Dutch (Erkelens, 2009), frequent frames in German do not enable such accurate lexical categorization. This can be explained by the characteristics of German including a less restricted (...) word order compared to English or French and the frequent use of some forms as both determiner and pronoun in colloquial German. Finally, we explore the relationship between the accuracy of frames and their potential utility and find that even some of those frames showing high token-based accuracy are of limited value because they are in fact set phrases with little or no variability in the slot position. (shrink)
Following a usage-based approach to language acquisition, lexically specific patterns are considered to be important building blocks for language productivity and feature heavily both in child-directed speech and in the early speech of children. 621–636; Tomasello, Michael. 2003. Constructing a language: A usage-based theory of language acquisition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press). In order to account for patterns, the traceback method has been widely applied in research on first language acquisition to test the hypothesis that children’s utterances can be accounted for (...) on the basis of a limited inventory of chunks and partially schematic units. 481–508). In the current study, we applied the method to code-mixed utterances of three German-English bilingual children between 2 and 4 years of age to investigate individual differences in each child’s own inventory of patterns in relation to their input settings. It was shown that units such as I see X as in I see a Kelle ‘I see a trowel’ could be traced back to the child’s own previous productions. More importantly, we see that each child’s inventory of constructions draws heavily on multiword chunks that are strongly dependent on the children’s language input situations. (shrink)
This paper investigates whether an abstract linguistic construction shows the kind of prototype effects characteristic of non-linguistic categories, in both adults and young children. Adapting the prototype-plus-distortion methodology of Franks and Bransford (1971), we found that whereas adults were lured toward false-positive recognition of sentences with prototypical transitive semantics, young children showed no such effect. We examined two main implications of the results. First, it adds a novel data point to a growing body of research in cognitive linguistics and construction (...) grammar that shows abstract linguistic categories can behave in similar ways to non-linguistic categories, for example, by showing graded membership of a category. Thus, the findings lend psychological validity to the existing cross-linguistic evidence for prototypical transitive semantics. Second, we discuss a possible explanation for the fact that prototypical sentences were processed differently in adults and children, namely, that children’s transitive semantic network is not as interconnected or cognitively coherent as adults’. (shrink)
This study adjudicates between two opposing accounts of morphological productivity, using English past-tense as its test case. The single-route model posits that both regular and irregular past-tense forms are generated by analogy across stored exemplars in associative memory. In contrast, the dual-route model posits that regular inflection requires use of a formal “add -ed” rule that does not require analogy across regular past-tense forms. Children saw animations of an animal performing a novel action described with a novel verb. Past-tense forms (...) of novel verbs were elicited by prompting the child to describe what the animal “did yesterday.” Collapsing across age group, the likelihood of a verb being produced in regular past-tense form was positively associated with the verb's similarity to existing regular verbs, consistent with the single-route model only. Results indicate that children's acquisition of the English past-tense is best explained by a single-route analogical mechanism that does not incorporate a role for formal rules. (shrink)
An experimental study was conducted on children aged 2;6–3;0 and 3;6–4;0 investigating the priming effect of two WANT-constructions to establish whether constructional competition contributes to English-speaking children's infinitival to omission errors. In two between-participant groups, children either just heard or heard and repeated WANT-to, WANT-X, and control prime sentences after which to-infinitival constructions were elicited. We found that both age groups were primed, but in different ways. In the 2;6–3;0 year olds, WANT-to primes facilitated the provision of to in target (...) utterances relative to the control contexts, but no significant effect was found for WANT-X primes. In the 3;6–4;0 year olds, both WANT-to and WANT-X primes showed a priming effect, namely WANT-to primes facilitated and WANT-X primes inhibited provision of to. We argue that these effects reflect developmental differences in the level of proficiency in and preference for the two constructions, and they are broadly consistent with “priming as implicit learning” accounts. The current study shows that children as young as 2;6–3;0 years of age can be primed when they have only heard particular constructions, children are acquiring at least two constructions for the matrix verb WANT, and that these two WANT-constructions compete for production. (shrink)
Many studies show a developmental advantage for transitive sentences with familiar verbs over those with novel verbs. It might be that once familiar verbs become entrenched in particular constructions, they would be more difficult to understand (than would novel verbs) in non-prototypical constructions. We provide support for this hypothesis investigating German children using a forced-choice pointing paradigm with reversed agent-patient roles. We tested active transitive verbs in study 1. The 2-year olds were better with familiar than novel verbs, while the (...) 2½-year olds pointed correctly for both. In study 2, we tested passives: 2½-year olds were significantly below chance for familiar verbs and at chance for novel verbs, supporting the hypothesis that the entrenchment of the familiar verbs in the active transitive voice was interfering with interpreting them in the passive voice construction. The 3½-year olds were also at chance for novel verbs but above chance with familiar verbs. We interpret this as reflecting a lessening of the verb-in-construction entrenchment as the child develops knowledge that particular verbs can occur in a range of constructions. The 4½-year olds were above chance for both familiar and novel verbs. We discuss our findings in terms of the relative entrenchment of lexical and syntactic information and to interference between them. (shrink)
Next SectionDiscourse particles typically express the attitudes of interlocutors with respect to the propositional content of an utterance – for example, marking whether or not a speaker believes the content of the proposition that she uttered. In German, the particle doch – which has no direct English translation – is commonly used to correct a belief that is thought to be common ground among those present. We asked whether German adults and 5-year-olds are able to infer that a speaker who (...) utters doch intends to be understood in this way. Sixty-four children (4;9–5;3 years) and twenty-four adults participated in a comprehension task in which a speaker explicitly expressed either a positive belief or a negative belief. Subsequently, in both conditions, the speaker checked the truth of her previous belief and corrected her belief with doch. In both the group of adults and the group of children, polarity of the speaker’s belief affected hearers’ interpretations of the speaker’s utterance. In a third condition we investigated whether participants could also perform the more difficult task of interpreting the speaker’s utterance with doch while inferring the speaker’s belief. Whereas adults showed a similar performance as in the explicit belief conditions, children showed limited abilities in keeping track of the speaker’s belief. (shrink)
Productivity is a central concept in the study of language and language acquisition. As a test case for exploring the notion of productivity, we focus on the noun slots of verb frames, such as __want__, __see__, and __get__. We develop a novel combination of measures designed to assess both the flexibility and creativity of use in these slots. We do so using a rigorously controlled sample of child speech and child directed speech from three English-speaking children between the ages of (...) 2–3 years and their caregivers. We find different levels of creativity and flexibility between the adult and child samples for some measures, for some slots, and for some developmental periods. We discuss these differences in the context of verb frame semantics, conventionality versus creativity and child errors, and draw some tentative conclusions regarding developmental changes in children's early grammatical representations. (shrink)
It has seemed natural to model phenomena related to vagueness in terms of graded membership. However, so far no satisfactory answer has been given to the question of what graded membership is nor has any attempt been made to describe in detail a procedure for determining degrees of membership. We seek to remedy these lacunae by building on recent work on typicality and graded membership in cognitive science and combining some of the results obtained there with a version of the (...) conceptual spaces framework. (shrink)
In a famous critique, Goodman dismissed similarity as a slippery and both philosophically and scientifically useless notion. We revisit his critique in the light of important recent work on similarity in psychology and cognitive science. Specifically, we use Tversky’s influential set-theoretic account of similarity as well as Gärdenfors’s more recent resuscitation of the geometrical account to show that, while Goodman’s critique contained valuable insights, it does not warrant a dismissal of similarity.
This essay frames systemic patterns of mental abuse against women of color and Indigenous women on Turtle Island (North America) in terms of larger design-of-distribution strategies in settler colonial societies, as these societies use various forms of social power to distribute, reproduce, and automate social inequalities (including public health precarities and mortality disadvantages) that skew socio-economic gain continuously toward white settler populations and their descendants. It departs from traditional studies in gender-based violence research that frame mental abuses such as gaslighting--commonly (...) understood as mental manipulation through lying or deceit--stochastically, as chance-driven interpersonal phenomena. Building on structural analyses of knowledge in political epistemology (Dotson 2012, Berenstain 2016), political theory (Davis and Ernst 2017), and Indigenous social theory (Tuck and Yang 2012), I develop the notion of cultural gaslighting to refer to the social and historical infrastructural support mechanisms that disproportionately produce abusive mental ambients in settler colonial cultures in order to further the ends of cultural genocide and dispossession. I conclude by proposing a social epidemiological account of gaslighting that a) highlights the public health harms of abusive ambients for minority populations, b) illuminates the hidden rules of social structure in settler colonial societies, and c) amplifies the corresponding need for structural reparations. (shrink)
The enactive approach to cognition distinctively emphasizes autonomy, adaptivity, agency, meaning, experience, and interaction. Taken together, these principles can provide the new sciences of language with a comprehensive philosophical framework: languaging as adaptive social sense-making. This is a refinement and advancement on Maturana’s idea of languaging as a manner of living. Overcoming limitations in Maturana’s initial formulation of languaging is one of three motivations for this paper. Another is to give a response to skeptics who challenge enactivism to connect “lower-level” (...) sense-making with “higher-order” sophisticated moves like those commonly ascribed to language. Our primary goal is to contribute a positive story developed from the enactive account of social cognition, participatory sense-making. This concept is put into play in two different philosophical models, which respectively chronicle the logical and ontogenetic development of languaging as a particular form of social agency. Languaging emerges from the interplay of coordination and exploration inherent in the primordial tensions of participatory sense-making between individual and interactive norms; it is a practice that transcends the self-other boundary and enables agents to regulate self and other as well as interaction couplings. Linguistic sense-makers are those who negotiate interactive and internalized ways of meta-regulating the moment-to-moment activities of living and cognizing. Sense-makers in enlanguaged environments incorporate sensitivities, roles, and powers into their unique yet intelligible linguistic bodies. We dissolve the problematic dichotomies of high/low, online/offline, and linguistic/nonlinguistic cognition, and we provide new boundary criteria for specifying languaging as a prevalent kind of human social sense-making. (shrink)
In recent years, neologicists have demonstrated that Hume's principle, based on the one-to-one correspondence relation, suffices to construct the natural numbers. This formal work is shown to be relevant for empirical research on mathematical cognition. I give a hypothetical account of how nonnumerate societies may acquire arithmetical knowledge on the basis of the one-to-one correspondence relation only, whereby the acquisition of number concepts need not rely on enumeration (the stable-order principle). The existing empirical data on the role of the one-to-one (...) correspondence relation for numerical abilities is assessed and additional empirical tests are proposed. In the final part, it is argued that the fact that the successor relation and the one-to-one correspondence relation can play independent roles in number concept acquisition may be a complication for testing the Whorfian hypothesis. (shrink)
I argue that a study of the Nicomachean Ethics and of the Parva Naturalia shows that Aristotle had a notion of attention. This notion captures the common aspects of apparently different phenomena like perceiving something vividly, being distracted by a loud sound or by a musical piece, focusing on a geometrical problem. For Aristotle, these phenomena involve a specific selectivity that is the outcome of the competition between different cognitive stimuli. This selectivity is attention. I argue that Aristotle studied the (...) common aspects of the physiological processes at the basis of attention and its connection with pleasure. His notion can explain perceptual attention and intellectual attention as voluntary or involuntary phenomena. In addition, it sheds light on how attention and enjoyment can enhance our cognitive activities. (shrink)
Putnam’s internal realism is aimed at reconciling realist and antirealist intuitions about truth and the nature of reality. A common complaint about internal realism is that it has never been stated with due precision. This paper attempts to render the position precise by drawing on the literature on conceptual spaces as well as on earlier work of the authors on the notion of identity.
The Interplay of Logic, Set Theory and Semantics in Quine's Philosophy L. Decock. In philosophy of science Quine's name is linked to the so-called Quine- Duhem thesis. The discussion of this thesis still continues even after several decades.9 ...
This article offers a first large scale analysis of argumentative polylogues in the fracking controversy. It provides an empirical methodology that identifies, from large quantities of text data through semantic frame analysis, the many players, positions and places presumed relevant to argumentation in a controversy. It goes beyond the usual study of framing in communication research because it considers that a controversy’s communicative context is shaped, and in turn conditions, the making and defending of standpoints. To achieve these novels aims, (...) theoretical insights from frame semantics, knowledge driven argument mining, and argumentative polylogues are combined. The macroscope is implemented using the Semafor parser to retrieve all the semantic frames present in a large corpus about fracking and then observing the distribution of those frames that semantically presuppose argumentative features of polylogue. The prominent indicators are Taking_sides, Evidence and Reasoning. The automatic retrieval of the words associated with the core elements of the semantic frame enables the mapping of how different players, positions, and discussion venues are assembled around what is treated as disagreeable in the controversy. This knowledge driven approach to argument mining reveals prototypical traits of polylogues related to environmental issues. Moreover, it addresses a problem in conventional frame analysis common in environmental communication that focuses on the way individual arguments are presented without effective consideration of the argumentative relevance the semantics and pragmatics of certain frames operating across discourses. (shrink)
Traditionally, epistemologists have held that only truth-related factors matter in the question of whether a subject can be said to know a proposition. Various philosophers have recently departed from this doctrine by claiming that the answer to this question also depends on practical concerns. They take this move to be warranted by the fact that people’s knowledge attributions appear sensitive to contextual variation, in particular variation due to differing stakes. This paper proposes an alternative explanation of the aforementioned fact, one (...) that allows us to stick to the orthodoxy. The alternative applies the conceptual spaces approach to the concept of knowledge. With knowledge conceived of spatially, the variability in knowledge attributions follows from recent work on identity, according to which our standards for judging things (including concepts) to be identical are context-dependent. On the proposal to be made, it depends on what is at stake in a context whether it is worth distinguishing between knowing and being at least close to knowing. (shrink)
This paper traces the development of Quine's ontological ideas throughout his early logical work in the period before 1948. It shows that his ontological criterion critically depends on this work in logic. The use of quantifiers as logical primitives and the introduction of general variables in 1936, the search for adequate comprehension axioms, and problems with proper classes, all forced Quine to consider ontological questions. I also show that Quine's rejection of intensional entities goes back to his generalisation of Principia (...) Mathematica in 1932. (shrink)