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Idioms-based model for learnability and language acquisition

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This is my presentation at SQUID, linguistics student conference at City University of New York (CUNY). I am introducing a new model for learnability and language acquisition based on findings from CHILDES corpus. The model is based on the idea that based on the input children/learners get, they start to create templates, and with more templates, they start to abstract such templates into grammar rules. Some input, mainly ideomatic expressions, cannot be templated, and hence they play an important role in this model. The model can further be ported into second language acquisition, as in my Champolu Method.

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Idioms-based model for learnability and language acquisition

  1. 1. Hussein Ghaly
  2. 2.  Idiomatic expressions play a significant role in Chomsky’s argument for eliminating D-Structure and S-Structure and maintaining LF: “ If condition A were to Apply at S-Structure … the later LF processes would be free to choose either idiomatic or the literal interpretation … thus we have the strongest kind of argument against S-Structure” “… a strong argument for LF representation. The facts are explained in terms of a level of representation with two properties: (1) phrases with a unitary interpretation such as the idiom (take … picture) or (have … attitudes) appear as units; (2) binding theory applies. In standard EST approaches, LF is the only candidate. This argument is still clearer in this minimalist theory, lacking D-Structure and … S-Structure.” Chomsky, The Minimalist Program, Pages 207-208
  3. 3.  Children learn idioms following adult input  Input determines idiomatic and flexible expressions  Flexible expressions form templates  Templates help in learning lexical items and syntactic equivalencies  Templates are abstracted to form grammar
  4. 4.  Children acquire the idiom “ants in the pants” – CHILDES corpus ["*MOT: (be)cause she's got ants in her pants . x15111506_112911x15", (4463, 174)] ['*MOT: +" ants in pants . x1594363_98226x15', (4463, 154)] ["*FAT: got ants in your pants today , don't you ?", (1537, 2379)] ['*CHI: ants in your pants .', (1668, 23862)] ['*MCH: you got ants in your pants .', (1675, 8071)] ['*BRO: I got ants in my pants an(d) I need to dance but a big fat momma', (1675, 11533)] ['*MCH: you got ants in your +...', (1675, 8074)] ['*MCH: got ants in my (.) +...', (1675, 8065)] ['*MOT: ants in the pants ? x15972916_974781x15', (3995, 1242)] ['*MOT: ants in the pants ? x15970481_972916x15', (3995, 1239)] ["*MOT: it's covered with dirt , not my pants that sat in the ants , ants in my pants tonight . x151019315_1025593x15", (3999, 1456)]
  5. 5.  One assumption is to treat “Thank you” as an idiom…  From CHILDES Corpus: ◦ Number of “thank you” utterances: 3381 ◦ Number of “thank you” utterances by children: 490 ◦ Number of “thank” not followed by “you” utterances: 335 ◦ Number of “thank” not followed by “you” utterances by children: 96  The percentage of “Thank (NOT you)” for children is about 20%, while for the rest is about 10%, but the rest includes children, so numbers need refinement
  6. 6.  “Here’s X” is an expression that is partly idiomatic, but it is analyzable, so “Here’s” can be rigid, while X can change  Input can make some expressions “rigid/frozen” while others “flexible”
  7. 7. So given the input from adults:  ["*MOT: oh (.) here's a chair .", (1, 166)]  ["*MOT: here's a table .", (1, 186)]  ["*MOT: here's a cooker like Daddy's cooker .", (3, 79)]  ["*MOT: here's some blocks (.) beads .", (3, 129)]  ["*MOT: here's something that goes over here .", (5, 405)]  ["*MOT: look (.) here's that little puppy like you have .", (16, 353)]  ["*MOT: here's another one .", (19, 132)]  ["*MOT: here's some more round ones that go in there though .", (35, 459)]  ["*MOT: and here's the bench for them to sit at the table .", (40, 478)] Children would follow:  ["*CHI: here's one for you .", (184, 11697)]  ["*CHI: here's a railroad tracks .", (185, 6552)]  ["*CHI: here's Jenny .", (185, 7735)]  ["*CHI: here's a little horse .", (186, 1144)]  ["*CHI: and here's my tennis racquet .", (187, 13956)]
  8. 8.  Children learn: ◦ Anything at X has to be in one syntactic category (NP) ◦ making equivalencies between NP treelets (e.g. Det N; Adj N; NP Cnj NP; NP C VP ..etc) ◦ Template can be associated with the pragmatic purpose of showing/pointing at/presenting something ◦ Matching template to new input to discover unknown items at X
  9. 9.  How templates and categories can help in acquiring vocabulary and grammar of a new language  A little exercise with Egyptian Arabic
  10. 10. I have a cat ‘andee ottah 🐱 A fish and a cat Samakah we ottah 🐱 🐟 The cat is eating El ottah be taakol 🐱 He saw a fish Howwa shaaf samakah 🐟 he saw a monkey Howwa shaaf erd 🐒 So, how do you say “cat” in Egyptian Arabic?
  11. 11. I have a cat ‘andee ottah 🐱 A fish and a cat Samakah we ottah 🐱 🐟 The cat is eating El ottah be taakol 🐱 He saw a fish Howwa shaaf samakah 🐟 He saw a monkey Howwa shaaf erd 🐒 Cat = ottah = 🐱
  12. 12. I have a 🌑 ‘andee 🌑 🐱 A fish and a 🌑 Samakah we 🌑 🐱 🐟 The 🌑 is eating El 🌑 be taakol 🐱 He saw a fish Howwa shaaf samakah 🐟 He saw a monkey Howwa shaaf erd 🐒 Cat = ottah = 🐱 How about “fish”?
  13. 13. I have a 🌑 ‘andee 🌑 🐱 A 🌑 and a 🌑 🌑 we 🌑 🐱 🐟 The 🌑 is eating El 🌑 be taakol 🐱 He saw a 🌑 Howwa shaaf 🌑 🐟 He saw a monkey Howwa shaaf erd 🐒 Cat = ottah = 🐱 Fish= samakah= 🐟 How do you say “monkey”?
  14. 14. I have a 🌑 ‘andee 🌑 🐱 A 🌑 and a 🌑 🌑 we 🌑 🐱 🐟 The 🌑 is eating El 🌑 be taakol 🐱 He saw a 🌑 Howwa shaaf 🌑 🐟 He saw a 🌑 Howwa shaaf 🌑 🐒 Cat = ottah = 🐱 Fish= samakah= 🐟 Monkey=erd=🐒
  15. 15. John saw 🌑 John shaaf 🌑 My friend saw 🌑 Saahby shaaf 🌑 The old man saw 🌑 El raagel el ‘agooz shaaf 🌑 The man who lives at the fifth floor saw a 🌑 El raagel elly saaken fi el dor el khaames shaaf 🌑 He saw a 🌑 Howwa shaaf 🌑 Cat = ottah = 🐱 Fish= samakah= 🐟 Monkey=erd=🐒 How about “John” and other items coming before “saw”? 
  16. 16. Pragmatic value 🔲 saw 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something 🔲 saw 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something 🔲 saw 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something 🔲 saw 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something 🔲 saw a 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something
  17. 17.  Template: X saw Y = X shaaf Y; to express that someone saw something  Vocabulary: ◦ Cat = ottah = 🐱 ◦ Fish= samakah= 🐟 ◦ Monkey=erd=🐒  Syntactic Equivalents: ◦ John = John ◦ My friend = saahby ◦ The old man = el raagel el ‘agouz ◦ The man who lives at the fifth floor = el raagel elly saaken fi el dor el khaames
  18. 18. Pragmatic Value 🔲 saw 🌑 🔲 shaaf 🌑 Someone saw something 🔲 ate 🌑 🔲 akal 🌑 Someone ate something 🔲 pulled 🌑 🔲 shadd 🌑 Someone pulled something 🔲 took 🌑 🔲 akhad 🌑 Someone took something 🔲 made 🌑 🔲 ‘amal 🌑 Someone made something All of these can be abstracted to the form: X V Y
  19. 19.  Idioms provide guidance on the role of input in creating flexible/rigid expressions/templates  With the input provided, we were able to acquire: ◦ Vocabulary items (cat = ottah ..etc) ◦ Syntactic equivalencies (My friend; the old man; the man who lives …) ◦ Templates associated with some semantic/pragmatic setting ◦ Abstraction of templates into grammar
  20. 20. P.S. Play the game “Champolu” built on the principles presented today  champolu.com Volunteers are welcome 

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