Modelling the acquisition of syntactic categories

Fernand Gobet


This research represents an attempt to model the child's acquisition of syntactic categories. A computational model, based on Feigenbaum and Simon's EPAM theory of perception and learning, is being developed. In addition, this project aims at studying extensions of Simon and Feigenbaum's EPAM model, such as production system and semantic network capacities, and at applying this framework to the study of cognitive development.


Theoretical Background

The basic assumptions are that (1) syntactic categories are actively constructed by the child using distributional learning abilities; and (2) cognitive constraints in learning rate and memory capacity limit these learning abilities. The aim of the project is to build a distributional learning mechanism that is not only capable of constructing grammatical categories, but also of doing so in a way that is consistent with recent findings in the developmental literature on the sequencing of grammatical category acquisition.


On-Going Research

The project has been designed to complement a large-scale naturalistic study of children's early grammatical development that is currently being conducted at Nottingham and Manchester. Our intention is not only to use the multi-word speech data generated by this study as a target for simulation, but also to use the model that we are proposing to build to generate further hypotheses about the precise nature of children's grammatical knowledge at particular points in development which can then be used to guide the analysis of the very detailed multi-word speech corpus being collected in the Nottingham and Manchester study.


Selected Publications

Fernand Gobet

Brunel University

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Last Modified: 01/10/2004