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Linguistic Nativism and the Poverty of the Stimulus

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Table of Contents

Preface. 1 Introduction: Nativism in Linguistic Theory. 1.1 Historical Development. 1.2 The Rationalist-Empiricist Debate. 1.3 Nativism and Cognitive Modularity. 1.4 Connectionism, Nonmodularity, and Antinativism. 1.5 Adaptation and the Evolution of Natural Language. 1.6 Summary and Conclusions. 2 Clarifying the Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus. 2.1 Formulating the APS. 2.2 Empiricist Learning versus Nativist Learning. 2.3 Our Version of the APS. 2.4 A Theory-Internal APS. 2.5 Evidence for the APS: Auxiliary Inversion as a Paradigm Case. 2.6 Debate on the PLD. 2.7 Learning Theory and Indispensable Data. 2.8 A Second Empirical Case: Anaphoric One. 2.9 Summary and Conclusions. 3 The Stimulus: Determining the Nature of Primary Linguistic Data. 3.1 Primary Linguistic Data. 3.2 Negative Evidence. 3.3 Semantic, Contextual, and Extralinguistic Evidence. 3.4 Prosodic Information. 3.5 Summary and Conclusions. 4 Learning in the Limit: The Gold Paradigm. 4.1 Formal Models of Language Acquisition. 4.2 Mathematical Models of Learnability. 4.3 The Gold Paradigm of Learnability. 4.4 Critique of the Positive-Evidence-Only APS in IIL. 4.5 Proper Positive Results. 4.6 Variants of the Gold Model. 4.7 Implications of Gold's Results for Linguistic Nativism. 4.8 Summary and Conclusions. 5 Probabilistic Learning Theory for Language Acquisition. 5.1 Chomsky's View of Statistical Learning. 5.2 Basic Assumptions of Statistical Learning Theory. 5.3 Learning Distributions. 5.4 Probabilistic Versions of the IIL Framework. 5.5 PAC Learning. 5.6 Consequences of PAC Learnability. 5.7 Problems with the Standard Model. 5.8 Summary and Conclusions. 6 A Formal Model of Indirect Negative Evidence. 6.1 Introduction. 6.2. From Low Probability to Ungrammaticality. 6.3 Modeling the DDA. 6.4 Applying the Functional Lower Bound. 6.5 Summary and Conclusions. 7 Computational Complexity and Efficient Learning. 7.1 Basic Concepts of Complexity 7.2 Efficient Learning. 7.3 Negative Results. 7.4 Interpreting Hardness Results. 7.5 Summary and Conclusions. 8 Positive Results in Efficient Learning. 8.1 Regular Languages. 8.2 Distributional Methods. 8.3 Distributional Learning of Context-Free Languages. 8.4 Lattice-Based Formalisms. 8.5 Arguments against Distributional Learning. 8.6 Summary and Conclusions. 9 Grammar Induction through Implemented Machine Learning. 9.1 Supervised Learning. 9.2Unsupervised Learning. 9.3 Summary and Conclusions. 10 Parameters in Linguistic Theory and Probabilistic Language Models. 10.1 Learnability of Parametric Models of Syntax. 10.2 UG Parameters and Language Variation. 10.3 Parameters in Probabilistic Language Models. 10.4 Inferring Constraints on Hypothesis Spaces with Hierarchical Bayesian Models. 10.5 Summary and Conclusions. 11 A Brief Look at Some Biological and Psychological Evidence. 11.1 Developmental Arguments. 11.2 Genetic Factors: Inherited Language Disorders. 11.3 Experimental Learning of Artificial Languages. 11.4 Summary and Conclusions. 12 Conclusion. 12.1 Summary. 12.2 Conclusions. References. Author Index. Subject Index.

About the Author

Alexander Clark is a Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the co-editor, with Chris Fox and Shalom Lappin, of The Handbook of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). Shalom Lappin is Professor of Computational Linguistics at King's College, London. He is editor of The Handbook of Contemporary Semantic Theory (Wiley-Blackwell, 1996); co-author, with Chris Fox, of Foundations of Intensional Semantics (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005) and, with Alexander Clark and Chris Fox, co-editor of The Handbook of Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Processing (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).


This book is not only very pertinent, but also succeedsin eschewing most of the polemical excess that tends to engulf usall in this field It s not an easy book. but I thinkit gives some sense of what the enterprise is about. AlexClark describes it, at one point, as an exercise in clearing theground and it succeeds in sweeping away certain comfortableassumptions that are often made in this area, concerning (forinstance) the irrelevance of negative evidence, what languages areprovably unlearnable, and the role of the Chomskyhierarchy. ( New Books in Language , 8 June2012) Most of all, it challenges basic concepts inmainstream linguistics. It rejects key tenets of UG in the light ofadvances in machine learning theory, and research in thecomputational modelling of the language acquisition process. Itexposes so-called proofs supporting the poverty of stimulus, andreveals alternatives that are formally more comprehensive than theexplanations previously provided by UG theories, and empiricallymore likely to match natural language acquisitionprocesses. ( Linguist List , 2011) This book is not only very pertinent, but alsosucceeds in eschewing most of the polemical excess that tends toengulf us all in this field. It s not an easy book but I think it gives some sense of what the enterprise isabout. Alex Clark describes it, at one point, as an exercisein clearing the ground and it succeeds in sweeping awaycertain comfortable assumptions that are often made in this area,concerning (for instance) the irrelevance of negative evidence,what languages are provably unlearnable, and the role of theChomsky hierarchy. ( New Books in Language , 2012 review and interview available at

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