1a. Locality & Variation
Constraints on movement are classic examples of hard-to-observe linguistic phenomena. Yet children somehow manage to master them, despite cross-language variation. Cross-language analyses of input corpora show that the direct evidence isn’t good; indirect learning is needed. [Chacón et al. 2014]
Russian children appear to make egregious errors in the semantics of aspect. But closer inspection reveals that they have mastered the (im)perfective distinction, but mistakenly apply it in the way that Dutch does. [Kazanina & Phillips (2010), Cognition]
2a. Parsing & Locality
When faced with ambiguous wh-questions, English and Japanese-speaking children show opposite interpretive biases. This is because in English the first verb is the main verb, but in Japanese the first verb is the most deeply embedded verb. [Omaki et al. 2014, Language Learning & Development]
Children’s errors in interpretation of anaphora show striking parallels to findings from adult parsing. So children’s mistakes may reflect an immature parser rather than an underdeveloped grammar. [e.g., Conroy et al. 2009; Kazanina & Phillips 2001; Phillips & Ehrenhofer 2015]
Scope alternations are obscure enough within a single language. It doesn’t help that they show cross-language variation and so must be learned. To make matters worse, preschoolers seem to show greater scope flexibility than their parents. So how do they recover? [Goro 2007; Goro et al. 2007]
1d. Argument Structure
How do children learn the syntactic possibilities associated with individual verbs? An attractive solution is that they rely on knowledge of the verbs’ meanings plus universal linking rules. But broad cross-language surveys suggest that the linking rules are not universal. (Kim et al. 1999; Phillips 2000)
2c. Parsing & Maturational Constraints
Children are more successful language learners than adults. And they’re also less proficient language processors. The “Less is More” hypothesis (Newport 1990) argues that these two facts are related. But how could it be that adding noise to the input improves learning outcomes? [Phillips & Ehrenhofer 2015]
Young children’s speech production is full of morphosyntactic errors. But these errors show a systematic distribution, and they pattern differently across languages. The systematic variation provides important clues to the role of grammar in children’s unfolding speech production mechanisms. [Phillips 1995/2010; Phillips 2003]
Theme #1: Learning and Cross-language Variation
Successful language learners master many facts about their language that are hard to infer from their language experience. It can’t be that the knowledge is simply built-in, as the hard-to-observe facts show substantial cross-language variation. So how do learners achieve this? This should be one of the central challenges in language research, motivating combined efforts using comparative linguistics, developmental research, and computational models. Yet it has received too little attention in recent work. Comparative linguistics has uncovered fascinating variability, but rarely engages with learning problems. Developmental research has uncovered interesting new ways of studying learning, but rarely turns its attention to the harder learning problems. I am particularly attracted to learning problems involving cross-language variation in hard-to-observe properties.
Theme #2: Learning and Parsing
In order to learn from their language experience, children must be able to accurately analyze the words and sentences that they hear. If they mis-analyze the input, then they will struggle to learn successfully. This is a very real danger, as it is becoming increasingly clear that children’s immature parsing system leads them astray. Nevertheless children, who are less successful parsers than adults, learn more successfully than adults. How is this possible? Our studies have uncovered parallels between children’s offline biases and adults’ online biases. We are also interested in whether children’s errors reflect grammatical mis-analyses, or more fleeting failures of the parsing or production system.
Publications in Language Acquisition
including PhD dissertations supervised
|Katherine Howitt Eun-Kyoung Rosa Lee, London Dixon: Dynamics of context-driven lexical activation in children and adults. In: Forthcoming, ((submitted)). (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
This study investigates whether children share the same predictive mechanism as adults, where multiple candidates for upcoming input are activated in parallel based on context. A total of 60 school-aged children (ages 4-12, mean = 9) and 152 adults performed a speeded cloze task in a live museum setting, as part of their experience at a language-focused museum. Two key patterns emerged in children and adults: high-cloze responses were produced more quickly than low-cloze responses, and highly constraining contexts yielded faster responses than less constraining contexts. These findings support a shared race-like process in generating next-word predictions, where multiple candidates are activated based on context and compete toward an activation threshold (Staub et al., 2015). Despite the shared mechanism, children and adults show some differences in speeded cloze response patterns, which may reflect that children generate different response candidates. Analyses of children’s data motivate the use of mean response times, rather than modal cloze probability, as a measure of sentence constraint. Implications for how cloze probability and cloze response latencies map onto the underlying cognitive processes involved in prediction are discussed.
| Ehrenhofer, Lara: Argument roles in adult and child comprehension. University of Maryland, 2018. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
Language comprehension requires comprehenders to commit rapidly to interpretations based on incremental and occasionally misleading input. This is especially difficult in the case of argument roles, which may be more or less useful depending on whether comprehenders also have access to verb information. In children, a combination of subject-as-agent parsing biases and difficulty with revising initial misinterpretations may be the source of persistent misunderstandings of passives, in which subjects are not agents. My experimental investigation contrasted German five-year-olds’ argument role assignment in passives in a task that combined act-out and eye-tracking measures. Manipulating the order of subject and voice (Exp. 4.1, 4.3) did not impact German learners’ success in comprehending passives, but providing the cue to voice after the main verb (Exp. 4.2) led to a steep drop in children’s comprehension outcomes, suggesting that the inclusion of verb information impacts how young comprehenders process argument role information. In adults, many studies have found that although argument role reversals create strong contrasts in offline cloze probability, they do not elicit N400 contrasts. This may be because in the absence of a main verb, the parser is unable to use argument role information. In an EEG experiment (Exp. 5.1), we used word order to manipulate the presence or absence of verb information, contrasting noun-noun-verb reversals (NNV; which cowboy the bull had ridden) with noun-verb-noun reversals (NVN; which horse had raced the jockey). We found an N400 contrast in NVN contexts, as predicted, but surprisingly, we also found an N400 contrast in NNV contexts. Unlike previous experimental materials, our stimuli were designed to elicit symmetrically strong and distinct verb predictions with both canonical and reversed argument role assignments. These data suggest that adult comprehenders are able to overcome the absence of a main verb when probability distributions over combined verb-argument role information can contribute to generating role-specific verb candidates.
The overall investigation suggests that prediction and comprehension of argument role information is impacted by the presence or absence of verb information, which may allow comprehenders to bridge the divide between linguistic representations and world knowledge in real-time processing.
| Atkinson, Emily; Wagers, Matthew W.; Lidz, Jeffrey; Phillips, Colin; Omaki, Akira: Developing incrementality in filler-gap dependency processing. In: Cognition, 2017, (revised version to appear). (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Much work has demonstrated that children are able to use bottom-up linguistic cues to incrementally interpret sentences, but there is little understanding of the extent to which children’s comprehension mechanisms are guided by top-down linguistic information that can be learned from distributional regularities in the input. Using a visual world eye tracking experiment and a corpus analysis, the current study investigates whether 5- and 6-year-old children incrementally assign interpretations to temporarily ambiguous wh-questions like What was Emily eating the cake with __?. In the visual world eye-tracking experiment, 6-year-old children showed an adult-like bias to incrementally complete the filler-gap dependency at the earliest position in the sentence (i.e., verb), while no evidence for this bias was found in 5-year-olds. These results suggest that adult-like incrementality in filler-gap dependency processing begins to emerge around age 6. The corpus analysis of filler-gap dependency structures in adult corpora and child corpora demonstrate that the distributional regularities in either corpora are equally in favor of early, incremental completion of filler-gap dependencies, suggesting that the distributional information in the input is either not relevant to this incremental bias, or that 5-year-old children are somehow unable to recruit this information in real-time comprehension. Taken together, these findings shed light on the origin of incremental processing bias in filler-gap dependency processing, as well as on the role of language experience in the development of incremental sentence processing mechanisms.
| Phillips, Colin; Ehrenhofer, Lara: The role of language processing in language acquisition. In: Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 409-453, 2015, (target article with 17 commentaries & response). (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Language processing research is changing in two ways that should make it more relevant to the study of grammatical learning. First, grammatical phenomena are re-entering the psycholinguistic fray, and we have learned a lot in recent years about the real-time deployment of grammatical knowledge. Second, psycholinguistics is reaching more diverse populations, leading to much research on language processing in child and adult learners. We discuss three ways that language processing can be used to understand language acquisition. Level 1 approaches (“Processing in learners”) explore well-known phenomena from the adult psycholinguistic literature and document how they play out in learner populations (child learners, adult learners, bilinguals). Level 2 approaches (“Learning effects as processing effects”) use insights from adult psycholinguistics to understand the language proficiency of learners. We argue that a rich body of findings that have been attributed to the grammatical development of anaphora should instead be attributed to limitations in the learner’s language processing system. Level 3 approaches (“Explaining learning via processing”) use language processing to understand what it takes to successfully master the grammar of a language, and why different learner groups are more or less successful. We examine whether language processing may explain why some grammatical phenomena are mastered late in children but not in adult learners. We discuss the idea that children’s language learning prowess is directly caused by their processing limitations (“less is more”: Newport, 1990). We conclude that the idea is unlikely to be correct in its original form, but that a variant of the idea has some promise (“less is eventually more”). We lay out key research questions that need to be addressed in order to resolve the issues addressed in the paper.
| Phillips, Colin; Ehrenhofer, Lara: Learning obscure and obvious properties of languages. In: Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 545-555, 2015, (response to 17 commentaries on target article "The role of language processing in language acquisition"). (Type: Journal Article | | )|
| Chacón, Dustin Alfonso: Comparative psychosyntax. University of Maryland, 2015. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
Every difference between languages is a “choice point” for the syntactician, psycholinguist, and language learner. The syntactician must describe the differences in representations that the grammars of different languages can assign. The psycholinguist must describe how the comprehension mechanisms search the space of the representations permitted by a grammar to quickly and effortlessly understand sentences in real time. The language learner must determine which representations are permitted in her grammar on the basis of her primary linguistic evidence. These investigations are largely pursued independently, and on the basis of qualitatively different data. In this dissertation, I show that these investigations can be pursued in a way that is mutually informative. Specifically, I show how learnability concerns and sentence processing data can constrain the space of possible analyses of language differences.
In Chapter 2, I argue that “indirect learning”, or abstract, cross-contruction syntactic inference, is necessary in order to explain how the learner determines which complementizers can co-occur with subjects gaps in her target grammar. I show that adult speakers largely converge in the robustness of the that-trace effect, a constraint on complementation complementizers and subject gaps observed in languages like English, but unobserved in languages like Spanish or Italian. I show that realistic child-directed speech has very few long-distance subject extractions in English, Spanish, and Italian, implying that learners must be able to distinguish these different hypotheses on the basis of other data. This is more consistent with more conservative approaches to these phenomena (Rizzi, 1982), which do not rely on abstract complementizer agreement like later analyses (Rizzi, 2006; Rizzi & Shlonsky, 2007). In Chapter 3, I show that resumptive pronoun dependencies inside islands in English are constructed in a non-active fashion, which contrasts with recent findings in Hebrew (Keshev & Meltzer-Asscher, ms). I propose that an expedient explanation of these facts is to suppose that resumptive pronouns in English are ungrammatical repair devices (Sells, 1984), whereas resumptive pronouns in island contexts are grammatical in Hebrew. This implies that learners must infer which analysis is appropriate for their grammars on the basis of some evidence in linguistic environment. However, a corpus study reveals that resumptive pronouns in islands are exceedingly rare in both languages, implying that this difference must be indirectly learned. I argue that theories of resumptive dependencies which analyze resumptive pronouns as incidences of the same abstract construction (e.g., Hayon 1973; Chomsky 1977) license this indirect learning, as long as resumptive dependencies in English are treated as ungrammatical repair mechanisms. In Chapter 4, I compare active dependency formation processes in Japanese
and Bangla. These findings suggest that filler-gap dependencies are preferentially resolved with the first position available. In Japanese, this is the most deeply embedded clause, since embedded clauses always precede the embedding verb (Aoshima et al., 2004; Yoshida, 2006; Omaki et al., 2014). Bangla allows a within-language comparison of the relationship between active dependency formation processes and word order, since embedded clauses may precede or follow the embedding verb (Bayer, 1996). However, the results from three experiments in Bangla are mixed, suggesting a weaker preference for a linearly local resolution of filler-gap dependencies, unlike in Japanese. I propose a number of possible explanations for these facts, and discuss how differences in processing profiles may be accounted for in a variety of ways.
In Chapter 5, I conclude the dissertation.
| Pearson, Barbara Zurer; Lidz, Jeffrey; McKee, Cecile; McCullough, Elizabeth A.; Moore, Leslie C.; Phillips, Colin; Speer, Shari R.; Wagner, Laura; Zimmer, Elly: Linguistics for everyone: Engaging a broader public for the scientific study of language. In: Proceedings of the 39th Boston University Conference on Language Development, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 2015. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Omaki, Akira; White, Imogen Davidson; Goro, Takuya; Lidz, Jeffrey; Phillips, Colin: No fear of commitment: children's incremental interpretation in English and Japanese wh-questions. In: Language Learning and Development, vol. 10, pp. 206-233, 2014. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Much work on child sentence processing has demonstrated that children are able to use various linguistic cues to incrementally resolve temporary syntactic ambiguities, but they fail to use syn- tactic or interpretability cues that arrive later in the sentence. The present study explores whether children incrementally resolve filler-gap dependencies, using Japanese and English ambiguous wh-questions of the form Where did Lizzie tell someone that she was gonna catch butterflies?, in which one could answer either the telling location (main clause interpretation) or the butterfly– catching location (embedded clause interpretation). Three story-based experiments demonstrate two novel findings on children’s incremental interpretation of filler-gap dependencies. First, we observe that English-speaking adults and children generally prefer the main clause interpretation, whereas Japanese adults and children both prefer the embedded clause interpretation. As the linear order of main clause and embedded clause predicates differs between English (main first, embedded second) and Japanese (embedded first, main second), the results indicate that adults and children actively asso- ciate the wh-phrase with the first predicate in the sentence. Second, Japanese children were unable to inhibit their embedded clause interpretation bias when the sentence was manipulated to syntactically block such analyses. The failure to inhibit the preferred interpretation suggests that the wh-phrase was incrementally associated with the embedded clause. On the other hand, when the sentence was manipulated to semantically block a plausible interpretation for the embedded clause wh-association, children were able to overcome their strong embedded clause interpretation bias and favored the main clause interpretation. These findings suggest that syntactic and interpretability cues may have distinct impacts on children’s sentence comprehension processes.
| Lewis, Shevaun: Pragmatic enrichment in language processing and development. University of Maryland, 2013. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
The goal of language comprehension for humans is not just to decode the semantic content of sentences, but rather to grasp what speakers intend to communicate. To infer speaker meaning, listeners must at minimum assess whether and how the literal meaning of an utterance addresses a question under discussion in the conversation. In cases of implicature, where the speaker intends to communicate more than just the literal meaning, listeners must access additional relevant information in order to understand the intended contribution of the utterance. I argue that the primary challenge for inferring speaker meaning is in identifying and accessing this relevant contextual information. In this dissertation, I integrate evidence from several different types of implicature to argue that both adults and children are able to execute complex pragmatic inferences relatively efficiently, but encounter some difficulty finding what is relevant in context. I argue that the variability observed in processing costs associated with adults’ computation of scalar implicatures can be better understood by examining how the critical contextual information is presented in the discourse context. I show that children’s oft-cited hyper-literal interpretation style is limited to scalar quantifiers. Even 3-year-olds are adept at understanding indirect requests and “parenthetical” readings of belief reports. Their ability to infer speaker meanings is limited only by their relative inexperience in conversation and lack of world knowledge.
| Phillips, Colin: On the nature of island constraints. II: Language learning and innateness. In: Sprouse, Jon; Hornstein, Norbert (Ed.): Experimental syntax and island effects, pp. 132-157, Cambridge University Press, 2013. (Type: Incollection | | )|
| Phillips, Colin: Individual variation and constraints on language learning. In: Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 281-286, 2012. (Type: Journal Article | | )|
| Omaki, Akira: Commitment and flexibility in the developing parser. University of Maryland, 2010. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
This dissertation investigates adults and children’s sentence processing mechanisms, with a special focus on how multiple levels of linguistic representation are incrementally computed in real time, and how this process affects the parser’s ability to later revise its early commitments. Using cross-methodological and cross-linguistic investigations of long-distance dependency processing, this dissertation demonstrates how paying explicit attention to the procedures by which linguistic representations are computed is vital to understanding both adults’ real time linguistic computation and children’s reanalysis mechanisms. The first part of the dissertation uses time course evidence from self-paced reading and eye tracking studies (reading and visual world) to show that long-distance dependency processing can be decomposed into a sequence of syntactic and interpretive processes. First, the reading experiments provide evidence that suggests that filler-gap dependencies are constructed before verb information is accessed. Second, visual world experiments show that, in the absence of information that would allow hearers to predict verb content in advance, interpretive processes in filler-gap dependency computation take around 600ms. These results argue for a predictive model of sentence interpretation in which syntactic representations are computed in advance of interpretive processes. The second part of the dissertation capitalizes on this procedural account of filler- gap dependency processing, and reports cross-linguistic studies on children’s long- distance dependency processing. Interpretation data from English and Japanese demonstrate that children actively associate a fronted wh-phrase with the first VP in the sentence, and successfully retract such active syntactic commitments when the lack of felicitous interpretation is signaled by verb information, but not when it is signaled by syntactic information. A comparison of the process of anaphor reconstruction in adults and children further suggests that verb-based thematic information is an effective revision cue for children. Finally, distributional analyses of wh-dependencies in child-directed speech are conducted to investigate how parsing constraints impact language acquisition. It is shown that the actual properties of the child parser can skew the input distribution, such that the effective distribution differs drastically from the input distribution seen from a researcher’s perspective. This suggests that properties of developing perceptual mechanisms deserve more attention in language acquisition research.
| Phillips, Colin: Syntax at age two: cross-linguistic differences. In: Language Acquisition, vol. 17, pp. 70-120, 2010, (This is a republication of an article that first appeared in 1995 in MIT Working Papers in Linguistics.). (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
The 1990s witnessed a major expansion in research on children’s morphosyntactic development, due largely to the availability of computer-searchable corpora of spontaneous speech in the CHILDES database. This led to a rapid emergence of parallel findings in different languages, with much attention devoted to the widely attested difficulties in inflectional morphology in the speech of two- year-olds. First written in 1995, and framed within the terms of contemporary syntactic theories, this article argues that cross-linguistic differences in the distribution of children’s morphosyntactic errors provide important clues to the source of the errors, in particular whether they are morphological or syntactic in origin. The article takes as its starting point some striking previous findings that children’s verb inflection errors are systematically correlated, on a sentence-by-sentence basis, with errors in the use of overt subjects, and with the use of syntactically complex constructions such as wh-questions. The article shows that these correlations are found in some languages but not in others, and argues that these differences are predictable, based on the verb movement and case licensing properties of individual languages. The article argues that children’s errors reflect a combination of grammatical and speech production deficits.
| Conroy, Anastasia; Takahashi, Eri; Lidz, Jeffrey; Phillips, Colin: Equal treatment for all antecedents: how children succeed with Principle B. In: Linguistic Inquiry, vol. 45, pp. 446-486, 2009. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Children have repeatedly been found to exhibit Principle B violations, with some reports that these violations occur only with nonquantified antecedents. This quantificational asymmetry (QA) in the delay of Principle B effect (DPBE) has been taken as support for a theory that restricts the scope of binding theory to bound variable anaphora (Reinhart 1983). However, the QA has been challenged, on the basis of discrepant findings and methodological concerns (Elbourne 2005). Here, we resolve the status of the QA with 3 studies and a review of over 30 previous studies. Using improved experimental materials, we show that children disallow local pronoun binding with both referential and quantificational antecedents when Principle B is at issue (Experi- ment 1), but not when Principle B is neutralized (Experiment 2). When methodological flaws are reintroduced, we replicate the QA (Experiment 3). Drawing on evidence from adult language processing, we suggest that the role of Principle B as a filter on representations during sentence understanding, in concert with pragmatic infelicities in the tasks used, accounts for the wide variability in the DPBE in the litera- ture.
| Goro, Takuya: Language specific constraints on scope interpretation in first language acquisition. University of Maryland, 2007. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
This dissertation investigates the acquisition of language-specific constraints on scope interpretation by Japanese preschool children. Several constructions in Japanese do not allow scope interpretations that the corresponding English sentences do allow. First, in Japanese transitive sentences with multiple quantificational arguments, an inverse scope interpretation is disallowed, due to the Rigid Scope Constraint. Second, Japanese logical connectives cannot be interpreted under the scope of local negation, due to their Positive Polarity. Thirdly, in Japanese infinitival complement constructions with implicative matrix verbs like wasureru (“forget”) the inverse scope interpretation is required, due to the Anti-Reconstruction Constraint. The main goal of this research is to determine how Japanese children learn these constraints on scope interpretations. To that end, three properties of the acquisition task that have an influence on the learnability of linguistic knowledge are examined: productivity, no negative evidence, and arbitrariness. The results of experimental investigations show that Japanese children productively generate scope interpretations that are never exemplified in the input. For example, with sentences that contain two quantificational arguments, Japanese children accessed inverse scope interpretations that Japanese adults do not allow. Also, Japanese children interpret the disjunction ka under the scope of local negation, which is not a possible interpretive option in the adult language. These findings clearly show that children do not acquire these scope constraints through conservative learning, and raise the question of how they learn to purge their non-adult interpretations. It is argued that input data do not provide learners with negative evidence (direct or indirect) against particular scope interpretations. Two inherent properties of input data about possible scope interpretations, data sparseness and indirectness, make negative evidence too unreliable as a basis for discovering what scope interpretation is impossible. In order to solve the learnability problems that children’s scope productivity raise, I suggest that the impossibility of their non-adult interpretations are acquired by learning some independently observable properties of the language. In other words, the scope constraints are not arbitrary in the sense that their effects are consequences of other properties of the grammar of Japanese.
| Kazanina, Nina; Phillips, Colin: A developmental perspective on the imperfective paradox. In: Cognition, vol. 105, pp. 65-102, 2007. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Imperfective or progressive verb morphology makes it possible to use the name of a whole event to refer to an activity that is clearly not a complete instance of that event, leading to what is known as the Imperfective Paradox. For example, a sentence like ‘John was building a house’ does not entail that a house ever got built. The Imperfective Paradox has received a number of diVerent treatments in the philosophical and linguistic literature, but has received less attention from the perspective of language acquisition. This article presents developmental evidence on the nature of the Imperfective Paradox, based on a series of four experiments con- ducted with Russian-speaking 3 to 6 year olds. Despite the fact that Russian is a language in which the morphological form of imperfectives is highly salient and used appropriately at a very young age, younger children show a clearly non-adultlike pattern of comprehension in our experiments. The results from Experiments 1 and 2 suggest that Russian-speaking children incorrectly ascribe completion entailments to imperfectives. However, Experiments 3 and 4 indicate that the children recognize that imperfectives can describe incomplete events, and that their problem instead concerns their inability to Wnd a suitable temporal interval against which to evaluate imperfective statements. SpeciWcally, children are only willing to accept an imper- fective predicate as a description of a past incomplete event when the sentence contains an explicit temporal modiWer that highlights a time interval that ends before the failure point of the event. These Wndings are taken as support for an account of the imperfective that makes use of temporal perspectives in solving the Imperfective Paradox.
| Lieberman, Moti; Aoshima, Sachiko; Phillips, Colin: Nativelike biases in generation of wh-questions by nonnative speakers of Japanese. In: Studies in Second Language Acquisition, vol. 28, pp. 423-448, 2006. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
A number of studies of second language (L2) sentence processing have investigated whether ambiguity resolution biases in the native language (L1) transfer to superficially similar cognate structures in the L2. When transfer effects are found in such cases, it is difficult to determine whether they reflect surface parallels between the languages or the operation of more abstract processing mechanisms. Wh-questions in English and Japanese present a valuable test case for investigating the relation between L1 and L2 sentence processing. Native speakers (NSs) of English and Japanese both show strong locality biases in processing wh-questions, but these locality biases are realized in rather different ways in the two languages, due to differences in word order and scope marking. Results from a sen- tence generation study with NSs of Japanese and advanced English-speaking L2 learners of Japanese show that the L2 learners show a strongly nativelike locality bias in the resolution of scope ambiguities for in situ wh-phrases, despite the fact that the closest analogue of such an interpretation is impossible in English. This indicates that L2 learners are guided by abstract processing mechanisms and not just by superficial transfer from the L1.
| Phillips, Colin: Three benchmarks for distributional approaches to natural language syntax. In: Zanuttini, Raffaella; Campos, Hector; Herburger, Elena; Portner, Paul (Ed.): Negation, Tense, and Clausal Architecture: Cross-linguistic Investigations, Georgetown University Press, Washington, DC, 2006. (Type: Inproceedings | | | )|
Human language abilities are far richer than what is represented in the kinds of monolingual corpora that are standardly used to evaluate statistical models of language learning. This article summarizes a series of findings from language acquisition, cross- language typology, and language processing, that illustrate the challenges that any serious model of natural language syntax must meet. Even a putative ideal statistical learner of cooccurrences in corpora will struggle to meet the challenges of complexity, cross- language consistency, and causality, unless it is able to take advantage of the rich representational primitives motivated by linguistics and psycholinguistics.
| Kazanina, Nina: The acquisition and processing of backwards anaphora. University of Maryland, 2005. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
This dissertation investigates long-distance backwards pronominal dependencies (backwards anaphora or cataphora) and constraints on such dependencies from the viewpoint of language development and real-time language processing. Based on the findings from a comprehension experiment with Russian-speaking children and on real-time sentence processing data from English and Russian adults I argue for a position that distinguishes structural and non-structural constraints on backwards anaphora. I show that unlike their non-syntactic counterparts, structural constraints on coreference, in particular Principle C of the Binding Theory (Chomsky 1981), are active at the earliest stage of language development and of real-time processing. In language acquisition, the results of a truth-value judgment task with 3-6 year old Russian-speaking children reveal a striking developmental asymmetry between Principle C, a cross-linguistically consistent syntactic constraint on coreference, and a Russian-specific discourse constraint on coreference. Whereas Principle C is respected by children already at the age of three, the Russian- specific (discourse) constraint is not operative in child language until the age of five. These findings present a challenge for input-driven accounts of language acquisition and are most naturally explained in theories that admit the existence of innately specified principles that underlie linguistic representations. In real-time processing, the findings from a series of self-paced reading experiments on English and Russian show that in backwards anaphora contexts the parser initiates an active search for an antecedent for the pronoun which is limited to positions that are not subject to structural constraints on coreference, e.g. Principle C. This grammatically constrained active search mechanism associated observed in the processing of backwards anaphora is similar to the mechanism found in the processing of another type of a long-distance dependency, the wh-dependency. I suggest that the early application of structural constraints on long-distance dependencies is due to reasons of parsing efficiency rather than due to their architectural priority, as such constraints aid to restrict the search space of possible representations to be built by the parser. A computational parsing algorithm is developed that combines the constrained active search mechanism with a strict incremental left-to-right structure building procedure.
| Phillips, Colin: Electrophysiology in the study of developmental language impairments: Prospects and challenges for a top-down approach. In: Applied Psycholinguistics, vol. 26, no. 01, pp. 79–96, 2005. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
There is a good deal of interest in the application of neurocognitive techniques to investigate the underpinnings of developmental language impairments (DLIs). Electrophysiological techniques such as electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography offer the promise of the ability to track brain activity with precision in time and space. This article describes a number of findings from studies of normal adults and children that are relevant to neurocognitive studies of developmental language impairments and outlines a series of challenges that should be met in order for electrophysiological measures to realize their promise.
| Phillips, Colin: Linguistics and linking problems. In: Rice, Mabel; Warren, Steven (Ed.): Developmental Language Disorders: From Phenotypes to Etiologies, pp. 241-287, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ, 2004. (Type: Incollection | | )|
| Kazanina, Nina; Phillips, Colin: Temporal reference frames and the imperfective paradox. In: Garding, Gina; Tsujimura, Mimu (Ed.): WCCFL22: Proceedings of the 22nd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics, pp. 287-300, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 2003. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Kazanina, Nina; Phillips, Colin: Russian children's knowledge of aspectual distinctions. In: Beachley, Barbara; Brown, Amanda; Conlin, Frances (Ed.): BUCLD27: Proceedings of the 27th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp. 390-401, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 2003. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Phillips, Colin: Levels of representation in the electrophysiology of speech perception. In: Cognitive Science, vol. 25, pp. 711-731, 2001. (Type: Journal Article | | | )|
Mapping from acoustic signals to lexical representations is a complex process mediated by a number of different levels of representation. This paper reviews properties of the phonetic and phonological levels, and hypotheses about how category structure is represented at each of these levels, and evaluates these hypotheses in light of relevant electrophysiological studies of phonetics and phonology. The paper examines evidence for two alternative views of how infant phonetic represen- tations develop into adult representations, a structure-changing view and a structure-adding view, and suggests that each may be better suited to different kinds of phonetic categories. Electrophysiological results are beginning to provide information about phonological representations, but less is known about how the more abstract representations at this level could be coded in the brain.
| Kazanina, Nina; Phillips, Colin: Coreference in child Russian: distinguishing syntactic and discourse constraints. In: Do, Anna; Domínguez, Laura; Johansen, Aimee (Ed.): BUCLD 25: Proceedings of the 25th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp. 413-424, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 2001. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Golinkoff, Roberta; Phillips, Colin: Surveying the field of language acquisition. In: Contemporary Psychology, vol. 45, pp. 607-609, 2000, ((Book review of Bhatia & Ritchie (1999), Handbook of Child Language Acquisition)). (Type: Journal Article | | )|
| Kim, Meesook: A cross-linguistic perspective on the acquisition of locative verbs. University of Delaware, 1999. (Type: PhD Thesis | | | )|
The main goal of this thesis is to determine what kind of learning mechanism allows children to reach adult-like knowledge of their native language, focusing specifically on a cross-linguistic comparison of the syntax and semantics of locative verbs. As a possible learning mechanism, innate and universal “linking rules” have been suggested to solve the learnability problem of how children can learn which verbs allow syntactic alternation and which verbs do not. If consistent mappings between syntax and semantics are universal, and if children can take advantage of them, then learning the meanings of verbs and their syntactic possibilities could be made easier. However, the existence of cross-linguistic variation in syntax-semantics mappings may pose a challenge for learning theories based on universal mappings. In Chapters 2 and 3, I characterize to what extent there are universal syntax- semantics correspondences, and to what there are language-specific syntax-semantics correspondences across languages, in terms of the syntax of locative verbs. A cross- linguistic survey of locative verb syntax in 13 languages shows that across languages, some syntax-semantics correspondences appear to be universal, some correspondences appear to apply only within one of two broad language groups, and some correspondences appear to involve idiosyncratic language-by-language variation. More specifically, I show that cross-linguistic variation in the syntax of locative verbs is quite restricted, dividing languages into two basic classes. Korean-type languages have a very simple pattern for locative verbs. All locative verbs allow Figure frames and there are no Non-alternating Ground verbs in these languages. In English-type languages, basic change-of-state verbs always allow Ground frames. Furthermore, I show that certain aspects of locative verb syntax correlate with an independent morphological property, namely the availability of V-V Compounding or verb serialization. This simple morphological cue may help children to figure out the properties of locative verbs in their target language. In Chapter 4, I show how much children have learned about the syntax of locative verbs by age 3-4, and how consistent syntax-semantics correspondences can assist children learn the syntax of locative verbs, given potential problems raised by cross- linguistic variation. This is shown through an elicited production task with child and adult speakers of both English and Korean. In addition to learning mechanisms based on linking rules, I examine another potential learning mechanism based on distributional properties of the input, in order to find out what information is available in the input to learners. Finally, I show to what extent learning strategies based on universal mappings can and cannot help children to succeed in learning the syntax of locative verbs, and to what extent learning strategies based on the use of distributional properties of the input can assist children to reach adult-like knowledge of their target language.
| Kim, Meesook; Landau, Barbara; Phillips, Colin: Cross-linguistic differences in children's syntax for locative verbs. In: Greenhill, Annabel; Littlefield, Heather; Tano, Cheryl (Ed.): BUCLD23: Proceedings of the 23rd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp. 337-348, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 1999. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Kim, Meesook; Phillips, Colin: Complex verb constructions in child Korean: overt markers of covert functional structure. In: Greenhill, Annabel; Hughes, Mary; Littlefield, Heather; Walsh, Hugh (Ed.): BUCLD22: Proceedings of the 22nd annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp. 430-441, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 1998. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|
| Phillips, Colin: Disagreement between adults and children. In: Mendikoetxea, Amaya; Uribe-Etxebarria, Myriam (Ed.): Theoretical Issues on the Morphology-Syntax Interface, pp. 359–394, ASJU, San Sebastian, 1998. (Type: Book Chapter | | )|
| Phillips, Colin: Root infinitives are finite. In: Stringfellow, Andy; Cahana-Amitay, Dalia; Hughes, Elizabeth; Zukowski, Andrea (Ed.): BUCLD 20: Proceedings of the 20th annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, pp. 588-599, Cascadilla Press, Somerville, MA, 1996. (Type: Inproceedings | | )|