A cognitively plausible model for grammar induction

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This paper aims to bring theoretical linguistics and cognition-general theories of learning into closer contact. I argue that linguists' notions of rich UGs are well-founded, but that cognition-general learning approaches are viable as well and that the two can and should co-exist and support each other. Specifically, I use the observation that any theory of UG provides a learning criterion -- the total memory space used to store a grammar and its encoding of the input -- that supports learning according to the principle of Minimum Description-Length. This mapping from UGs to learners maintains a minimal ontological commitment: the learner for a particular UG uses only what is already required to account for linguistic competence in adults. I suggest that such learners should be our null hypothesis regarding the child's learning mechanism, and that furthermore, the mapping from theories of UG to learners provides a framework for comparing theories of UG.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-248
Number of pages36
JournalJournal of Language Modelling
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • learning
  • Minimum Description Length
  • Universal Grammar


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