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LanguageWords and Rules


... with all the Mickey Mouses in this administration ... What about Mickey-mouse? The connection is between Proper noun Mickey mouse and general noun mouse. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: LanguageWords and Rules

Language-Words and Rules
  • The arbitrary sound-meaning pairing underlying
    words handled by associative memory.
  • The discrete combinatorial system underlying
    grammar handled by symbol manipulating rules.
  • These principles implicate distinct cognitive
    mechanisms is the bottom line of this theory

Contending Theories
  • Generative phonology Invokes minor rules to
    generate irregular as well as regular forms
  • Connectionism Invokes a pattern-associator
    memory to store and retrieve regular as well as
    irregular forms

The Problem-statement
  • We ought to find a case in which words and
    rules express the same contents -- but they would
    still be psychologically, and ultimately
    neurologically, distinguishable.

Regular and Irregular Inflection
  • Regular Inflection
  • Vpast -- Vstem d
  • Open-ended
  • Predictable
  • Irregular Inflection
  • Form their past tense in idiosyncratic ways
  • Only 180 irregular verbs in English
  • Unpredictable Sink-sankslink-slunk
  • Think-thought (thunk?)blink-blinked

Interaction of the Sub-systems
  • Regular inflections are Hallmark of rule products
    while irregulars are of memorized words.
  • If a word can provide its own past tense form
    memory, the regular rule is blocked.

How Irregular are irregulars?
  • Patterns among irregular verbs
  • Eg.1.Keep-sleep-dream-feel
  • 2.Bear-wear-swear-tear
  • So the irregular forms are not just a set of
    arbitrary exceptions, memorized individually by
    rote, and therefore cannot simply be attributed
    to a lexicon of stored items, as in the word-rule

Explaining Irregularity
  • Generative Phonology
  • Minor rules are used for irregulars.
  • eg. ring-sing-sit vowel change i to a
  • But doesnt apply to string, cling etc
  • Also, Bring-brought
  • Stick-stuck
  • Spin-spun
  • --The above exemplify that no rule can embrace
    all of these.

  • ConnectionistsFeatures of one item are linked
    to features of other.
  • Similar items, which share features, are partly
    superimposed in the memory representation,
    allowing the common patterns to reinforce each
  • New items that are similar to learned items will
    activate the shared features allowing for

The Pattern Associator Model-Connectivism
  • Input Nodes Phonological features of input stem
  • Output Nodes Identical bank of output units
    representing the past tense form.
  • Working
  • 1.Every input node is connected to every
    output node.2.During training sessions strengths
    of various connections are raised and
    activated to varied extents.3.The past tense
    form is computed as the word that best fits the
    active output nodes.
  • From now on this model replaces the
    connectionists point of view.

Words and Rules Theory
  • Regular inflection is computed by a memory
    operation that does not need access to the
    contents of memory unlike irregular inflection
    which come from memory.
  • The evidence In circumstances in which memorized
    forms are not accessed, for one reason or
    another, irregular inflection should suffer and
    not regular.

1.Weak Memory entry (rare word)
  • Low frequency irregulars are easily lost old
    English had double the irregulars than present.
    cleave-clove, crow-crew, abide-abode, chide-chid,
    and geld-gelt.
  • smite-smote, slay-slew, bid-bade, spell-spelt,
    and tread-trod (in American English) are
    predicted to be lostlook out!
  • In some cases a form is familiar enough to block
    the regular version, but not quite familiar
    enough to sound natural, example, in a cliché,
    idiom etc. which is used in a characteristic

The million word-corpus
  • 1. be 39175/million
  • 2. have 12458
  • 3. do 4367
  • 4. say 2765
  • 5. make 2312
  • 6. go 1844
  • 7. take 1575
  • 8. come 1561
  • 9. see 1513
  • 10. get 1486

The bottom ten
  • 3791. abate 1/million
  • 3791. abbreviate 1
  • 3791. abhor 1
  • 3791. ablate 1
  • 3791. abridge 1
  • 3791. abrogate 1
  • 3791. acclimatize 1
  • 3791. acculturate 1
  • 3791. admix 1
  • 3791. adsorb

  • 1.You will excuse me if I forgo the pleasure of
    reading your paper before its published.
  • ?Last night I forwent the pleasure of grading
    student papers.
  • 2.I dont know how she can bear that guy. ?I
    dont know how she bore that guy.
  • .

  • This unfamiliarity doesn't happen when regulars
    are used in infinitival forms
  • 1.We cant afford it.
  • I dont know how he afforded it.
  • 2.She doesnt suffer fools gladly.
  • None of them ever suffered fools gladly.
  • That means, an irregular verb and past tense
    both are to be individually familiarized where as
    for regulars one of them would suffice.

2. Difficult-to-analogize (unusual-sounding)
  • Kinds of unusual verbs
  • 1. Prototypical verbs like plip sound like many
    existing English regular verbs.
  • 2.Intermediate Verbs like smaig do not rhyme with
    any existing English verb root.
  • 3. Unusual verbs like ploamph are phonologically
    illicit in English and hence are very dissimilar
    to existing verbs.

Contrastive responses Human an Model
  • 1.plipped was the answer, without trouble.
  • 2.Humans gave verbed for all strange verbs of 2
    and 3 categories.
  • Gave plipped, but had a little trouble.
  • 2. It created random combinations
    likesmairf-sprurice, trilb-treelilt,
    smeej-leefloag, and frilg-freezled.

Interpretation of failure
  • Pattern associator models, do not have the
    mechanism of a variable, such as "Verb," that can
    stand for an entire class regardless of its
    content and that can thereby copy over the
    phonological material of a stem so that it can be
    systematically modified to yield a past tense
  • They create a chimerical output by picking up
    syllables and applying strengthened connections.
  • So, memory reinforcements cannot handle the new
    situation like humans who just add ed to every
    strange verb. It requires a separate
    symbol-manipulating system.

3.Irregular form is trapped in memory
  • All my daughters friends are low-lifes
  • Im sick of dealing with all the Mickey Mouses in
    this administration (Mickie Mice).
  • The above examples show that sound alone cannot
    be the input to inflection.
  • Semantics triggered this change?

  • overate/overeated
  • Workmen/workmans
  • Gods children/childs
  • Caught cold/catched
  • So semantics doesnt guide this systematic
    regularisation. The explaination lies in the
    headless ness or righthand-rule.

  • In case of head-less words, pipeline of
    information is broken because of
  • Over-eat is just another kind of eating but
    low-life is a person and not a kind of life.
  • What about Mickey-mouse? The connection is
    between Proper noun Mickey mouse and general noun

6,7,8.Onomatopoeia, Quotations and Foreign
  • The engine pinged/panged
  • While checking for sexist writing, I found three
    "man"s/"men" on page 1.
  • succumbed/succame derided/derode
    chiefs/chievesgulfs/gulves (all borrowed from
    French or Latin).

Limitation on Regular Plurals
  • Rat-infested vs Mice-infested
  • Although rats and mice are semantically
    equivalent, rats-eater isnt a correct usage.
  • teethmarks versus clawsmarks, men-bashing versus
    guys-bashing, and purple-people-eater versus

Explaining it
  • Route in the mental architecture
  • Memorized -- Complex -- Regular
  • Roots Word Inflection
  • (including Formation
  • irregulars)
  • The word mice, stored as a root in the first
    component, is available as an input to the
    compounding process in the second component,
    where it is joined to infested to yield
    mice-infested. In contrast, rats is not stored as
    a memorized root in the first component it is
    formed from rat by an inflectional rule in the
    third component, too late to be inputted to the
    compounding rule in the second

The Gordons experiment
  • Peter Gordon (1985) showed that 3-5-year-old
    children are sensitive to this principle. He
    asked them questions such as, "Here is a monster
    who likes to eat X. What would you call him?"
    First he trained them on mass nouns such as mud,
    which dont take a plural, to introduce them to
    the compound construction, in this case
    mud-eater, without biasing their subsequent
    answers. Then he tested them by asking what they
    would call a monster who likes to eat rats. The
    children virtually always said rat-eater, not
    rats-eater. In contrast, they frequently called a
    monster who likes to eat mice a mice-eater -- and
    those children who occasionally used the
    overregularized plural mouses in other contexts
    never used it in a plural such as mouses-eater.

  • That means one never compounds a regular
    inflection with a complex word and this need not
    be taught.
  • Except for tooth brush none of these forms were
    common in parental vocabulary of the experimented
  • Therefore childrens sensitivity to the
    teethmarks/clawsmarks distinction is likey to be
    a product of the innate architecture of their
    language system.

Disrupted memory-word retrieval
  • "Everyday I like to verb. Yesterday I
  • ________.
  • This was the sentence and was experimented with
    novel verbs of three kinds I specified earlier.
  • -Tested on two kinds of patients
  • -Anomic aphasia
  • -Agrammatic aphasia

  • Patients who are more impaired on vocabulary
    retrieval than on grammatical combination should
  • (1) find irregular forms harder to produce than
    regular ones,
  • (2) should occasionally produce
  • overregularized forms such as swimmed (for the
    same reason that children do), and
  • (3) should have little trouble producing past
    tense forms for novel verbs such as plammed.

  • Patients who are more impaired on grammatical
    combination than on vocabulary retrieval should
  • (1) find regular forms to be harder to produce
    than irregular ones,
  • (2) should rarely produce over regularized forms,
  • (3) should have grave difficulty producing past
    tense forms for novel verbs.

Results-Anomic aphosia
  • As predicted, found irregular verbs harder to
    inflect than regular verbs (60 vs 89)
  • made frequent overregularization errors (25 of
    the opportunities), and
  • were fairly good with novel verbs (84)

Results-Agrammatic aphasia
  • found regular verbs harder to inflect than
    irregular verbs (20 versus 69)
  • made no over regularization errors, and
  • were poor at inflecting novel verbs (5).
  • Similar results were found by many researchers.

Cross-Linguistic Validation
  • In Hindi, inflection for plurals is given based
    on the nucleus of the last syllable
  • a-e/AyEn(laDkA,bAlikA)
  • I-iyAn(titli)
  • U-nil(bandhU)
  • Consonant ending-en/-(imArat/patang)
  • bandar, patang, ciDiyA etc. are mostly left
    un-inflected especially consonant endings.
  • English words sometimes retain their plurals
  • Maam ne bahut examples dI thI
  • rOz kitni classes hOtI hain terI?

  • There is one case in which semantics of the word
    did influence the inflection
  • faTAkA-faTAkE
  • imArat-imAratEn
  • But, bAlikA-bAlikAyEn although a ending is
    inflected differently.
  • For novel words I tried(kAdal,paDkA,miDsI,balpam,c
    EpagruDDU), most of the people either decided it
    based on the vowel or left it un-inflected.

  • Pattern-associaton would be challenging if we
    introduce Hindi to them, because there is no
    reinforcement in many cases. But that doesnt
    mean there is no notion of plural in that case,
    because in the oblique case all those attain
    inflection E/iyOn/On/uon.
  • Here reinforcement has taken place in mind of a
    cognate but not machineit cannot reinforce
  • Moreover, it would be more fruitful to experiment
    a memory-loss impaired person on un-modified
    plurals in Hindi as there is no burden on the
    memory at all.

  • In case of German the regular suffix for
    past-tense -t is used only 45 times as against
    85 times in English. That is, irregular forms
    are the majority.
  • But still, Germans add t suffix to novel verbs,
    onomatopoeia and borrowed verbs. notions of
    Frequencies and reinforcements of the
    connectionists is invalidated here. Psychological
    notion of default suffix is there.
  • Compounding also, has similar effect across
  • English rat-eater (rats-eater)
  • German auto- fresser(autos-fressercar-eater)
  • Hindi bhEnDi kI sabjI(bhEnDiyOn kI sabjIladys
    finger curry)

  • It is now established that regular forms are
    default operations applying whenever memory
    retrieval fails to provide an inflected form.
    Regular inflection applies freely in any
    circumstance in which memory fails because
    regular inflection is computed by a mental
    operation that does not need access to contents
    of memory, namely, a symbol-processing rule.
  • The evidence, then, supports the hypothesis that
    the design of human language comprises two mental
    mechanisms memory, for the arbitrary sign
    underlying words, and symbolic computation, for
    the infinite use of finite media underlying

  • Words and rules theory predicts that a grammarian
    of the great classical language of Sanskrit
    (which has no irregularities of any form in it)
    would continue to be proficient even if we blast
    his entire left posterior perisylvian regions!!!