[2016] 10th session Adam Albright (MIT), Time: 2016-11-25, 04:30 PM

10th session

- Adam Albright (MIT)
- Learning biases in the lab and in the mind
- Time: 2016-11-25, 04:30 PM
- Place: Kwanjeong library, Yand Doo Suk Hall
- Abstract: A central goal of modern linguistic theory is to explain typology: why do some patterns recur frequently, while others are rare or unattested? Within generative linguistics, a common strategy has been to posit that unattested patterns correspond to `impossible’ grammars. However, attested but rare patterns pose a challenge: clearly, grammars that derive them must be possible, so what accounts for their low frequency? One common response is to hypothesize that some grammatical preferences are biases, rather than absolute restrictions (Wilson, Moreton, Hayes, White, Do, Green, and others). However, it is also likely that many patterns are rare for learnability or diachronic reasons (Blevins 2004, Stanton 2016), or other non-grammatical reasons such as colonialization and language contact. In order to test the hypothesis that there are universal biases, we need additional, converging evidence that these restrictions are `synchronically active’, for example, by studying how language is learned. If we can show using controlled comparisons that some phonological patterns are learned more slowly, less accurately, or using different mechanisms than others, then we would have evidence that humans are indeed biased towards certain patterns over others.

In this talk, I discuss a series of Artificial Grammar experiments, carried out in collaboration with Youngah Do (Hong Kong University), designed to test several different phonological preferences. The first concerns a bias