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The arbitrariness of the sign:learning advantages from the structure of the vocabulary

Monaghan, Padraic and Christiansen, Morten H. and Fitneva, Stanka A. (2011) The arbitrariness of the sign:learning advantages from the structure of the vocabulary. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 140 (3). pp. 325-347. ISSN 0096-3445

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Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated that systematic mappings between phonological word forms and their meanings can facilitate language learning (e.g., in the form of sound symbolism or cues to grammatical categories). Yet, paradoxically from a learning viewpoint, most words have an arbitrary form-meaning mapping. We hypothesized that this paradox may reflect a division of labor between 2 different language learning functions: arbitrariness facilitates learning specific word meanings and systematicity facilitates learning to group words into categories. In a series of computational investigations and artificial language learning studies, we varied the extent to which the language was arbitrary or systematic. For both the simulations and the behavioral studies, we found that the optimal structure of the vocabulary for learning incorporated this division of labor. Corpus analyses of English and French indicate that these predicted patterns are also found in natural languages.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
Uncontrolled Keywords: language evolution ; language acquisition ; arbitrariness of the sign ; connectionist modeling ; artificial language learning ; GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY ASSIGNMENTS ; SUFFIXING PREFERENCE ; DISTRIBUTIONAL CUES ; ARTIFICIAL LANGUAGE ; WORD RECOGNITION ; ACQUISITION ; CATEGORIZATION ; PHONOLOGY ; SOUND ; MORPHOLOGY
Subjects: UNSPECIFIED
Departments: UNSPECIFIED
ID Code: 52742
Deposited By: ep_importer_pure
Deposited On: 23 Feb 2012 14:07
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2014 14:58
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/52742

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