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Language Universals$
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Morten H. Christiansen, Christopher Collins, and Shimon Edelman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195305432

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305432.001.0001

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Computational Models of Language Universals: Expressiveness, Learnability, and Consequences

Computational Models of Language Universals: Expressiveness, Learnability, and Consequences

Chapter:
(p.200) 10 Computational Models of Language Universals: Expressiveness, Learnability, and Consequences
Source:
Language Universals
Author(s):

Edward P. Stabler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195305432.003.0010

This chapter reports on research showing that it may be a universal structural property of human languages that they fall into a class of languages defined by mildly context-sensitive grammars. It also investigates the issue of whether there are properties of language that are needed to guarantee that it is learnable. It suggests that languages are learnable if they have a finite Vapnik-Chervonenkis (VC) dimension (where the VC dimension provides a combinatorial measure of complexity for a set of languages). Informally, a finite VC dimension requires that there be restrictions on the set of languages to be learned such that they do not differ from one another in arbitrary ways. These restrictions can be construed as universals that are required for language to be learnable (given formal language learnability theory). The chapter concludes by pointing out that formalizations of the semantic contribution (e.g., compositionality) to language learning might yield further insight into language universals.

Keywords:   linguistic universals, language complexity, learnable syntactic patterns, Vapnik-Chervonenkis dimension, formal language learning theory, compositionality

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