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COLT seminar - Monday 20th September 14:00h, Mora Maldonado

COLT seminar - Monday 20th September 14:00h, Mora Maldonado

Us and Them or How learning and communicative biases shape person systems (Joint work with Jennifer Culbertson and Noga Zaslavsky) 

 

  • Speaker: Mora Maldonado
  • When: Monday 20th September, 14:00h
  • Where: online

 

Systems of personal pronouns (e.g.,‘you’ and ‘I’) are used to refer to individuals as a function of their role in the context of utterance (e.g., speaker, addressee).  While these systems vary widely across languages, not all ways of partitioning the person space are equally likely cross-linguistically. What are the forces that give rise to this constrained variation? In the first part of the talk, I will present work with Jenny Culberston where we use an artificial language learning method to investigate learning biases in how we represent the person space. Our results suggest that learners prefer person systems which are (a) based on natural-classes, and (b) keep distinct forms to refer to the speaker.  We take this to suggest natural class-based similarity and speaker-distinctiveness as two independent forces influencing the learnability of person systems. I will then show you some work with Noga Zaslavsky, where we adopt a novel approach to person systems by invoking a recent information-theoretic framework for semantic systems, which predicts that languages efficiently compress meanings into forms. Once we incorporate in the model the representational biases discussed above, we find that most cross-linguistically attested personal pronoun systems achieve near optimal compression, explaining the typological distribution.

 
20.09.2021

 

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