Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Representing Linguistic Knowledge with Probabilistic Models
by Meylan, Stephan Charles, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2018, 206; 10931065
Abstract (Summary)

The use of language is one of the defining features of human cognition. Focusing here on two key features of language, productivity and robustness, I examine how basic questions regarding linguistic representation can be approached with the help of probabilistic generative language models, or PGLMs. These statistical models, which capture aspects of linguistic structure in terms of distributions over events, can serve as both the product of language learning and as prior knowledge in real-time language processing. In the first two chapters, I show how PGLMs can be used to make inferences about the nature of people's linguistic representations. In Chapter 1, I look at the representations of language learners, tracing the earliest evidence for a noun category in large developmental corpora. In Chapter 2, I evaluate broad-coverage language models reflecting contrasting assumptions about the information sources and abstractions used for in-context spoken word recognition in their ability to capture people's behavior in a large online game of “Telephone.” In Chapter 3, I show how these models can be used to examine the properties of lexicons. I use a measure derived from a probabilistic generative model of word structure to provide a novel interpretation of a longstanding linguistic universal, motivating it in terms of cognitive pressures that arise from communication. I conclude by considering the prospects for a unified, expectations-oriented account of language processing and first language learning.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Griffiths, Thomas L.
Commitee: Frank, Michael C., Regier, Terry, Srinivasan, Mahesh
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 80/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Cognitive psychology, Computer science
Keywords: Bayesian inference, Information theory, Language acquisition, Language models, Probabilistic generative models, Psycholinguistics
Publication Number: 10931065
ISBN: 978-0-438-64387-1
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