LINGUIST List 14.135

Wed Jan 15 2003

Diss: Lang Acquisition: Claire "Language..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. anita_claire, Lang Acquisition: Claire "Language Acquisition"

Message 1: Lang Acquisition: Claire "Language Acquisition"

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:58:49 +0000
From: anita_claire <>
Subject: Lang Acquisition: Claire "Language Acquisition"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: Loughborough University
Program: Department of Social Sciences
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Anita Claire 

Dissertation Title: 
Language Acquisition

Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition

Subject Language: 
Panjabi, Eastern (code: 5011)
English (code: 1738)

Dissertation Director 1: Chris Hinde
Dissertation Director 2: John Connolly

Dissertation Abstract: 

This project investigates acquisition of a new language by
example. Syntax induction has been studied widely and the more complex
syntax associated with Natural Language is difficult to induce without
restrictions. Chomsky conjectured that natural languages are
restricted by a Universal Grammar. English could be used as a
Universal Grammar and Punjabi derived from it in a similar way as the
acquisition of a first language. However, if English has already been
acquired then Punjabi would be induced from English as a second

In both cases the source language restricts the target
language. However, if indirect access to the Universal Grammar is
provided the second approach could emulate access to the Universal
Grammar and provide the restrictions required to adequately induce a
Natural Language grammar. Studies in the thesis show that these
effects can be observed in humans. 

The development of the second language takes place by transforming and
extending the syntax of the English statements and basing the emergent
Punjabi syntax on those syntactic elements. As similar possible
structures are discovered the belief in those structures increases as
new evidence is presented. Several examples resulting in the same
structure will result in belief in that structure being increased and
so syntax will build up from positive evidence. 

The transformations that are used to transform the source language to
the target language are omission, addition and rearrangement. Omission
omits a selected syntactic element from a structure in the target
language. Addition complements omission and proposes an additional
syntactic element. Re-arrangement takes the English syntactic elements
and re-arranges them to form Punjabi. These transformations take care
of all observed syntactic differences. 

Results have shown that there has been an increase in the belief in
words and structures that have re-occurred on several occasions. The
system starts with no knowledge of Punjabi, but after being presented
with some Punjabi and the corresponding English it learns some
elements of Punjabi syntax that differ from English, while inheriting
those that are similar.
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