•  46
    The question of whether grammaticality is a binary categorical or a gradient property has been the subject of ongoing debate in linguistics and psychology for many years. Linguists have tended to use constructed examples to test speakers’ judgements on specific sorts of constraint violation. We applied machine translation to randomly selected subsets of the British National Corpus (BNC) to generate a large test set which contains well-formed English source sentences, and sentences that exhibit…Read more
  •  22
    Towards a Statistical Model of Grammaticality
    with Gianluca Giorgolo and Shalom Lappin
    The question of whether it is possible to characterise grammatical knowledge in probabilistic terms is central to determining the relationship of linguistic representation to other cognitive domains. We present a statistical model of grammaticality which maps the probabilities of a statistical model for sentences in parts of the British National Corpus (BNC) into grammaticality scores, using various functions of the parameters of the model. We test this approach with a classifier on test sets co…Read more
  •  9
    Empiricism and Language Learnability
    with Nick Chater, John A. Goldsmith, and Amy Perfors
    Oxford University Press UK. 2015.
    This interdisciplinary new work explores one of the central theoretical problems in linguistics: learnability. The authors, from different backgrounds---linguistics, philosophy, computer science, psychology and cognitive science-explore the idea that language acquisition proceeds through general purpose learning mechanisms, an approach that is broadly empiricist both methodologically and psychologically. Written by four researchers in the full range of relevant fields: linguistics, psychology, c…Read more
  •  32
    Grammaticality, Acceptability, and Probability: A Probabilistic View of Linguistic Knowledge
    with Lau Jey Han and Lappin Shalom
    Cognitive Science 41 (5): 1202-1241. 2017.
    The question of whether humans represent grammatical knowledge as a binary condition on membership in a set of well-formed sentences, or as a probabilistic property has been the subject of debate among linguists, psychologists, and cognitive scientists for many decades. Acceptability judgments present a serious problem for both classical binary and probabilistic theories of grammaticality. These judgements are gradient in nature, and so cannot be directly accommodated in a binary formal grammar.…Read more
  •  211
    Complexity in Language Acquisition
    with Shalom Lappin
    Topics in Cognitive Science 5 (1): 89-110. 2013.
    Learning theory has frequently been applied to language acquisition, but discussion has largely focused on information theoretic problems—in particular on the absence of direct negative evidence. Such arguments typically neglect the probabilistic nature of cognition and learning in general. We argue first that these arguments, and analyses based on them, suffer from a major flaw: they systematically conflate the hypothesis class and the learnable concept class. As a result, they do not allow one…Read more
  •  31
    Computational learning theory explores the limits of learnability. Studying language acquisition from this perspective involves identifying classes of languages that are learnable from the available data, within the limits of time and computational resources available to the learner. Different models of learning can yield radically different learnability results, where these depend on the assumptions of the model about the nature of the learning process, and the data, time, and resources that lear…Read more
  •  30
    Indirect negative evidence is clearly an important way for learners to constrain overgeneralisation, and yet a good learning theoretic analysis has yet to be provided for this, whether in a PAC or a probabilistic identification in the limit framework. In this paper we suggest a theoretical analysis of indirect negative evidence that allows the presence of ungrammatical strings in the input and also accounts for the relationship between grammaticality/acceptability and probability. Given independ…Read more