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Hussein Ghaly
 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
 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
 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)]
 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
 “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”
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)]
 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
 How templates and categories can help in
acquiring vocabulary and grammar of a new
language
 A little exercise with Egyptian Arabic
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?
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 = 🐱
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”?
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”?
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=🐒
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”? 
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
 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
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
 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
P.S. Play the game “Champolu” built on the
principles presented today 
champolu.com
Volunteers are welcome 

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Idioms-based model for learnability and language acquisition

  • 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.  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.  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.  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.  “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. 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.  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.  How templates and categories can help in acquiring vocabulary and grammar of a new language  A little exercise with Egyptian Arabic
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.  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. 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.  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. P.S. Play the game “Champolu” built on the principles presented today  champolu.com Volunteers are welcome 