Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument Structure [NOOK Book]

Overview

Before Steven Pinker wrote bestsellers on language and human nature, he wrote several technical monographs on language acquisition that have become classics in cognitive science. <I>Learnability and Cognition</I>, first published in 1989, brought together two big topics: how do children learn their mother tongue, and how does the mind represent basic categories of meaning such as space, time, causality, agency, and goals? The stage for this synthesis was set by the fact that when children learn a ...
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Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument Structure

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Overview

Before Steven Pinker wrote bestsellers on language and human nature, he wrote several technical monographs on language acquisition that have become classics in cognitive science. <I>Learnability and Cognition</I>, first published in 1989, brought together two big topics: how do children learn their mother tongue, and how does the mind represent basic categories of meaning such as space, time, causality, agency, and goals? The stage for this synthesis was set by the fact that when children learn a language, they come to make surprisingly subtle distinctions: <I>pour water into the glass</I> and <I>fill the glass with water</I> sound natural, but <I>pour the glass with water</I> and <I>fill water into the glass</I> sound odd. How can this happen, given that children are not reliably corrected for uttering odd sentences, and they don't just parrot back the correct ones they hear from their parents? Pinker resolves this paradox with a theory of how children acquire the meaning and uses of verbs, and explores that theory's implications for language, thought, and the relationship between them.As Pinker writes in a new preface, "The Secret Life of Verbs," the phenomena and ideas he explored in this book inspired his 2007 bestseller <I>The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature</I>. These technical discussions, he notes, provide insight not just into language acquisition but into literary metaphor, scientific understanding, political discourse, and even the conceptions of sexuality that go into obscenity.
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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"A monumental study that sets a new standard for work on learnability." —Ray Jackendoff, Tufts University

"The author's arguments are never less than impressive, and sometimes irresistible, such is the force and panache with which they are deployed." — PaulFletcher, Times Higher Education Supplement

" Learnability and Cognition is theoretically a big advance,beautifully reasoned, and a goldmine of information." — Lila Gleitman,University of Pennsylvania

Lila Gleitman
Learnability and Cognition is theoretically a big advance, beautifully reasoned, and a goldmine of information.
Ray Jackendoff
A monumental study that sets a new standard for work on learnability.
Paul Fletcher, Times Higher Education Supplement
The author's arguments are never less than impressive, and sometimes irresistible, such is the force and panache with which they are deployed.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262314282
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 6/21/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 1,418,385
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. His books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works,The Blank Slate, and The Better Angels of Our Nature have won numerous prizes.

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    1. Hometown:
      Boston, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 18, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Montreal, Canada
    1. Education:
      B.A., McGill University, 1976; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1979
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Acknowledgments
A Learnability Paradox
1.1 Argument Structure and the Lexicon
1.2 The Logical Problem of Language Acquisition
1.3 Baker's Paradox
1.4 Attempted Solutions to Baker's Paradox
1.4.1 Components of the Paradox
1.4.2 Solution #0: Nonsolutions
1.4.3 Solution #1: Variants of Negative Evidence
1.4.3.1 Subtle Negative Evidence
1.4.3.2 Nonoccurrence: A Surrogate for Negative Evidence?
1.4.3.3 Uniqueness: Another Surrogate for Negative Evidence?
1.4.4 Solution #2: Strict Lexical Conservatism
1.4.4.1 Evidence Against Strict Lexical Conservatism in Children: Spontaneous Speech
1.4.4.2 Evidence Against Strict Lexical Conservatism in Children: Experiments
1.4.5 Solution #3: Syntactic Representations as Criteria for the Application of Lexical Rules
1.4.5.1 Representations for Argument Structures
1.4.5.2 Using Properties of Syntactic Representations to Solve the Learning Problem
1.4.5.3 Obligatory Versus Optional Arguments
1.4.5.4 Arguments Versus Nonarguments
1.4.5.5 Unaccusativity
1.4.5.6 Other Proposals
Constraints on Lexical Rules
2.1 Morphological and Phonological Constraints
2.2 Semantic Constraints
2.2.1 Dative
2.2.2 Causative
2.2.3 Locative
2.2.4 Passive
2.3 How Semantic and Morphological Constraints Might Resolve Baker's Paradox
2.4 Evidence for Criteria-Governed Productivity
2.5 Problems for the Criteria-Governed Productivity Theory
Constraints and the Nature of Argument Structure
3.1 Overview: Why Lexical Rules Carry Semantic Constraints
3.2 Constraints on Lexical Rules as Manifestations of More General Phenomena
3.2.1 Constraints on Argument Structures ThatAre Independent of Lexical Rules
3.2.2 Constraints on Grammatical Functions That Are Independent of Particular Argument Structures
3.2.3 Constraints on Verb Choice Are Also Constraints on Interpretation
3.3 A Theory of Argument Structure
3.3.1 Background Assumptions
3.3.2 Semantic Conflation Classes as Thematic Cores of Argument Structures
3.3.3 Linking Rules
3.3.4 Lexical Rules
3.3.4.1 The Locative Alternation
3.3.4.2 The Dative Alternation
3.3.4.3 The Causative Alternation
3.3.4.4 The Active-Passive Relation
3.4 On Universality
Possible and Actual Forms
4.1 The Problem of Negative Exceptions
4.1.1 Why the Negative Exceptions Exist
4.2 Transitive Action Verbs as Evidence for Narrow Subclasses
4.3 The Nature of Narrow Conflation Classes
4.4 Defining and Motivating Subclasses of Verbs Licensing the Four Alternations
4.4.1 Dativizable Verbs
4.4.1.1 The Morphological Constraint on the Dative
4.4.2 Locativizable Verbs
4.4.3 Causativizable Verbs
4.4.4 Passivizable Verbs
4.4.4.1 Passivizable Action Verbs
4.4.4.2 The Thematic Relations Hypothesis Extended to Agent-Patient Relations
4.4.4.3 Passivizable Abstract and Stative Verbs
4.4.4.4 Other Passivizable Verbs Lacking Concrete Agents and Patients
4.4.4.5 What Makes the Passive Different from Other Alternations?
4.5 The Relation Between Narrow-Range and Broad-Range Rules
4.5.1 Ungrammatical Uses of Lexical Rules in Adult Language
4.5.2 Property-Predicting Versus Existence-Predicting Rules
4.5.3 Why Are Only Narrow-Range Rules Existence-Predicting?
Representation
5.1 The Need for a Theory of Lexicosemantic Representation
5.2 Is a Theory of Lexical Semantics Feasible?
5.2.1 Skepticism About Decompositional Theories of Word Meaning
5.3 Evidence for a Semantic Subsystem Underlying Verb Meanings
5.4 A Cross-linguistic Inventory of Components of Verb Meaning
5.5 A Theory of the Representation of Grammatically Relevant Semantic Structures
5.5.1 Conceptual Constituents and Functions for Motion Events
5.5.2 Interfacing Semantic Structures with Syntax
5.5.3 Manner of Motion
5.5.4 States
5.5.5 Properties
5.5.6 Extension to Nonlocational Semantic Fields
5.5.7 Actions, Agents, and Patients
5.5.8 A Possible Featural Representation for Basic Predicates
5.5.9 Interevent Relations: Effects, Means, and Coreference
5.5.10 Linking Oblique Arguments
5.5.11 A Family of Causal Relations
5.5.12 Nonphysical Semantic Fields for Acts
5.5.13 Temporal Information
5.5.14 A Remark on Redundancy, Constraints, and Decomposition
5.5.15 Summary of Semantic Machinery
5.6 Explicit Representations of Lexical Rules and Lexicosemantic Structures
5.6.1 Representations for the Dative
5.6.2 Representations for the Causative
5.6.3 Representations for the Locative
5.6.4 Representations for the Passive
5.7 Summary
Learning
6.1 Linking Rules
6.1.1 Problems with Using Innate Linking Rules
6.1.1.1 Can Linking Rules Form Vicious Circles in Acquisition?
6.1.1.2 Syntactic Ergativity
6.2 Lexical Semantic Structures
6.2.1 Event-Category Labeling
6.2.2 Semantic Structure Hypothesis Testing
6.2.3 Syntactic Cueing of Semantic Structures
6.3 Broad Conflation Classes (Thematic Cores) and Broad-Range Lexical Rules
6.4 Narrow Conflation Classes and Narrow-Range Lexical Rules
6.4.1 Why Lexical Abstraction Doesn't Work
6.4.2 Clustering Algorithms and Classwise Indirect Negative Evidence: Would They Work?
6.4.3 Parameterization of Idiosyncratic Lexical Information
6.4.3.1 Key Facts About Narrow Classes and Rules
6.4.3.2 A Strong Hypothesis for Narrow-Range Rule Formation
6.4.3.3 Learning the Variable Ranges of Rules by Focusing on the Changing Arguments
6.4.3.4 Other Ways of Preventing the Rules from Being Too Narrow
6.5 Summary of Learning Mechanisms
Development
7.1 Developmental Sequence for Argument Structure Alternations
7.1.1 Early Conservative Usage Preceding Onset of Errors
7.1.2 Overapplication of Argument Structure Alternations
7.1.3 Progression Toward the Adult State
7.2 The Unlearning Problem
7.2.1 A Simple Solution to the Unlearning Problem
7.2.1.1 Why Children Would Sound Different from Adults Even If the Minimalist Solution Is Correct
7.3 Children's Argument Structure Changing Rules Are Always Semantically Conditioned
7.3.1 Semantic Constraints on Children's Causatives
7.3.1.1 Experimental Evidence
7.3.1.2 Are Productive Transitives in Spontaneous Speech Necessarily Causative?
7.3.1.3 Choice of Causativized Predicates and Arguments in Causative Errors
7.3.1.4 Causativization of Transitive Verbs
7.3.2 Semantic Constraints on Children's Datives
7.3.2.1 Experimental Evidence
7.3.2.2 Spontaneous Speech
7.3.3 Semantic Constraints on Children's Locatives
7.3.3.1 Experimental Evidence
7.3.3.2 Spontaneous Speech
7.3.4 Semantic Constraints on Children's Passives
7.3.4.1 Experimental Evidence
7.3.4.2 Spontaneous Speech
7.3.5 Summary of Semantic Constraints on Children's Lexical Rules
7.4 Do Children's Errors Have the Same Cause as Adults'?
7.4.1 Overall Tendency Toward Conservativism
7.4.1.1 Experimental Evidence for Conservative Tendencies
7.4.1.2 Conservative Tendencies in Spontaneous Speech
7.4.2 Evidence That Children Are Ambivalent About Their Own Errors
7.4.3 Summary of Differences Between Children's Errors and Adults'
7.5 Acquisition of Verb Meaning and Errors in Argument Structure
7.5.1 The Development of Verb Meaning
7.5.1.1 Later Onset and Slower Rate
7.5.1.2 Underspecified meanings
7.5.1.3 Overspecified meanings
7.5.1.4 Biases in Semantic Development
7.5.1.5 Substitution Errors
7.5.2 Relations Between the Development of Verb Meaning and the Development of Argument Structure
7.5.2.1 Onset of Errors
7.5.2.2 Argument Structures in Verb Substitution Errors
7.5.2.3 Relations Between Biases in Acquiring Verb Semantics and Recurring Errors in Argument Struct...
7.5.3 Experimental Evidence Showing That Semantic Biases Affect Argument Structures
7.5.3.1 Errors in Understanding Fill-type Verbs
7.5.3.2 Semantic and Syntactic Errors with Fill-type Verbs in the Same Children
7.5.3.3 Effects of the Semantics of Newly Learned Verbs
7.6 Some Predictions About the Acquisition of Narrow-Range Rules
7.6.1 A Speculation About the Role of Maturation
7.7 Summary of Development
Conclusions
8.1 A Brief Summary of the Resolution of the Paradox
8.2 Argument Structure as a Pointer Between Syntactic Structure and Propositions: A Brief Comparison...
8.3 The Autonomy of Semantic Representation
8.4 Implications for the Semantic Bootstrapping Hypothesis
8.5 Conservatism, Listedness, and the Lexicon
8.6 Spatial Schemas and Abstract Thought
References
Notes
Index
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