A dynamic network analysis of emergent grammar

Paul Ibbotson, Vsevolod Salnikov, Richard Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

For languages to survive as complex cultural systems, they need to be learnable. According to traditional approaches, learning is made possible by constraining the degrees of freedom in advance of experience and by the construction of complex structure during development. This article explores a third contributor to complexity: namely, the extent to which syntactic structure can be an emergent property of how simpler entities – words – interact with one another. The authors found that when naturalistic child directed speech was instantiated in a dynamic network, communities formed around words that were more densely connected with other words than they were with the rest of the network. This process is designed to mirror what we know about distributional patterns in natural language: namely, the network communities represented the syntactic hubs of semi-formulaic slot-and-frame patterns, characteristic of early speech. The network itself was blind to grammatical information and its organization reflected (a) the frequency of using a word and (b) the probabilities of transitioning from one word to another. The authors show that grammatical patterns in the input disassociate by community structure in the emergent network. These communities provide coherent hubs which could be a reliable source of syntactic information for the learner. These initial findings are presented here as proof-of-concept in the hope that other researchers will explore the possibilities and limitations of this approach on a larger scale and with more languages. The implications of a dynamic network approach are discussed for the learnability burden and the development of an adult-like grammar.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-680
Number of pages29
JournalFirst Language
Volume39
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Fingerprint

network analysis
grammar
community
language
cultural system
source of information
Network Analysis
Grammar
organization
learning
experience

Keywords

  • Emergence
  • grammar
  • network structure

Cite this

Ibbotson, Paul ; Salnikov, Vsevolod ; Walker, Richard. / A dynamic network analysis of emergent grammar. In: First Language. 2019 ; Vol. 39, No. 6. pp. 652-680.
@article{552c473d8d3c4134a24e5b0bca2d347a,
title = "A dynamic network analysis of emergent grammar",
abstract = "For languages to survive as complex cultural systems, they need to be learnable. According to traditional approaches, learning is made possible by constraining the degrees of freedom in advance of experience and by the construction of complex structure during development. This article explores a third contributor to complexity: namely, the extent to which syntactic structure can be an emergent property of how simpler entities – words – interact with one another. The authors found that when naturalistic child directed speech was instantiated in a dynamic network, communities formed around words that were more densely connected with other words than they were with the rest of the network. This process is designed to mirror what we know about distributional patterns in natural language: namely, the network communities represented the syntactic hubs of semi-formulaic slot-and-frame patterns, characteristic of early speech. The network itself was blind to grammatical information and its organization reflected (a) the frequency of using a word and (b) the probabilities of transitioning from one word to another. The authors show that grammatical patterns in the input disassociate by community structure in the emergent network. These communities provide coherent hubs which could be a reliable source of syntactic information for the learner. These initial findings are presented here as proof-of-concept in the hope that other researchers will explore the possibilities and limitations of this approach on a larger scale and with more languages. The implications of a dynamic network approach are discussed for the learnability burden and the development of an adult-like grammar.",
keywords = "Emergence, grammar, network structure",
author = "Paul Ibbotson and Vsevolod Salnikov and Richard Walker",
year = "2019",
month = "12",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1177/0142723719869562",
language = "English",
volume = "39",
pages = "652--680",
journal = "First Language",
issn = "0142-7237",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Ltd",
number = "6",

}

A dynamic network analysis of emergent grammar. / Ibbotson, Paul; Salnikov, Vsevolod; Walker, Richard.

In: First Language, Vol. 39, No. 6, 01.12.2019, p. 652-680.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - A dynamic network analysis of emergent grammar

AU - Ibbotson, Paul

AU - Salnikov, Vsevolod

AU - Walker, Richard

PY - 2019/12/1

Y1 - 2019/12/1

N2 - For languages to survive as complex cultural systems, they need to be learnable. According to traditional approaches, learning is made possible by constraining the degrees of freedom in advance of experience and by the construction of complex structure during development. This article explores a third contributor to complexity: namely, the extent to which syntactic structure can be an emergent property of how simpler entities – words – interact with one another. The authors found that when naturalistic child directed speech was instantiated in a dynamic network, communities formed around words that were more densely connected with other words than they were with the rest of the network. This process is designed to mirror what we know about distributional patterns in natural language: namely, the network communities represented the syntactic hubs of semi-formulaic slot-and-frame patterns, characteristic of early speech. The network itself was blind to grammatical information and its organization reflected (a) the frequency of using a word and (b) the probabilities of transitioning from one word to another. The authors show that grammatical patterns in the input disassociate by community structure in the emergent network. These communities provide coherent hubs which could be a reliable source of syntactic information for the learner. These initial findings are presented here as proof-of-concept in the hope that other researchers will explore the possibilities and limitations of this approach on a larger scale and with more languages. The implications of a dynamic network approach are discussed for the learnability burden and the development of an adult-like grammar.

AB - For languages to survive as complex cultural systems, they need to be learnable. According to traditional approaches, learning is made possible by constraining the degrees of freedom in advance of experience and by the construction of complex structure during development. This article explores a third contributor to complexity: namely, the extent to which syntactic structure can be an emergent property of how simpler entities – words – interact with one another. The authors found that when naturalistic child directed speech was instantiated in a dynamic network, communities formed around words that were more densely connected with other words than they were with the rest of the network. This process is designed to mirror what we know about distributional patterns in natural language: namely, the network communities represented the syntactic hubs of semi-formulaic slot-and-frame patterns, characteristic of early speech. The network itself was blind to grammatical information and its organization reflected (a) the frequency of using a word and (b) the probabilities of transitioning from one word to another. The authors show that grammatical patterns in the input disassociate by community structure in the emergent network. These communities provide coherent hubs which could be a reliable source of syntactic information for the learner. These initial findings are presented here as proof-of-concept in the hope that other researchers will explore the possibilities and limitations of this approach on a larger scale and with more languages. The implications of a dynamic network approach are discussed for the learnability burden and the development of an adult-like grammar.

KW - Emergence

KW - grammar

KW - network structure

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85071534438&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1177/0142723719869562

DO - 10.1177/0142723719869562

M3 - Article

AN - SCOPUS:85071534438

VL - 39

SP - 652

EP - 680

JO - First Language

JF - First Language

SN - 0142-7237

IS - 6

ER -