• Colorless green ideas do sleep furiously: gradient acceptability and the nature of the grammar

      Sprouse, Jon; Yankama, Beracah; Indurkhya, Sagar; Fong, Sandiway; Berwick, Robert C.; Univ Arizona (DE GRUYTER MOUTON, 2018-09)
      In their recent paper, Lau, Clark, and Lappin explore the idea that the probability of the occurrence of word strings can form the basis of an adequate theory of grammar (Lau, Jey H., Alexander Clark & 15 Shalom Lappin. 2017. Grammaticality, acceptability, and probability: A prob-abilistic view of linguistic knowledge. Cognitive Science 41(5): 1201-1241). To make their case, they present the results of correlating the output of several probabilistic models trained solely on naturally occurring sentences with the gradient acceptability judgments that humans report for ungrammatical sentences derived from roundtrip machine translation errors. In this paper, we first explore the logic of the Lau et al. argument, both in terms of the choice of evaluation metric (gradient acceptability), and in the choice of test data set (machine translation errors on random sentences from a corpus). We then present our own series of studies intended to allow for a better comparison between LCL's models and existing grammatical theories. We evaluate two of LCL's probabilistic models (trigrams and recurrent neural network) against three data sets (taken from journal articles, a textbook, and Chomsky's famous colorless-green-ideas sentence), using three evaluation metrics (LCL's gradience metric, a categorical version of the metric, and the experimental-logic metric used in the syntax literature). Our results suggest there are very real, measurable cost-benefit tradeoffs inherent in LCL's models across the three evaluation metrics. The gain in explanation of gradience (between 13% and 31% of gradience) is offset by losses in the other two metrics: a 43%-49% loss in coverage based on a categorical metric of explaining acceptability, and a loss of 12%-35% in explaining experimentally-defined phenomena. This suggests that anyone wishing to pursue LCL's models as competitors with existing syntactic theories must either be satisfied with this tradeoff, or modify the models to capture the phenomena that are not currently captured.
    • Predicting the gender of Welsh nouns

      Hammond, Michael; Univ Arizona, Dept Linguist (DE GRUYTER MOUTON, 2016-01-01)
      Welsh grammatical gender exhibits several unusual properties. This paper argues that these properties are necessarily connected. The argument is based on a series of corpus investigations using techniques from statistical natural language processing, specifically distinguishing properties that exhibit significant statistical patterns from those which can be used to make useable predictions. Specifically, it’s shown that the grammatical properties of Welsh gender are such that its unusual statistical properties follow.
    • Stressed postverbal pronominals in Catalan

      Nadeu, Marianna; Simonet, Miquel; Llompart, Miquel; Univ Arizona, Dept Spanish & Portuguese (DE GRUYTER MOUTON, 2017-01-01)
      Majorcan Catalan postverbal pronominal elements are typically described as being prominent due to stress shift from their host. This study sheds light on the prosodic phonology of these pronouns through the analysis of duration, vowel quality, and f0 in verb + pronominal sequences, which are compared to a baseline condition without pronominals and to the same sequences in a Catalan variety without stress shift. Our results show acoustic differences in the realization of pronominals in these varieties. The duration and vowel quality patterns are consistent with the stress shift account of postverbal pronominals in Majorcan Catalan. Analysis of f0 contours also reveals phonological differences across varieties. Whereas stressed postverbal pronominals are not rare in Romance, Majorcan Catalan is one of a much reduced number of varieties within the Romance domain, where the attachment of a pronominal element to a host triggers "true" stress shift rather than an additional prominence on the pronominal element, like Sardinian or Neapolitan.