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What distributional information is useful and usable for language acquisition?

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Abstract

Numerous theories of language acquisition have indicated that distributional information is extremely valuable for assisting the child to learn syntactic categories, yet these theories differ over the type of information that is proposed as useful in acquisition. Mintz (2003) has proposed that children utilize the previous word and the following word (AxB frames) for acquiring categories, whereas Monaghan, Chater, and Christiansen (submitted) have suggested that information about the previous word alone provides a rich source of data for categorization. In three modeling experiments we found that bigrams were better than fixed AxB frames for learning syntactic categories in a corpus of child-directed speech. However, presentation of the preceding and succeeding words when these can be processed separately resulted in better learning than presenting the preceding word alone, and also improved performance over presenting the previous two words.