A Hebbian account of entrenchment and (over)-extension in language learning


In production, frequently used words are preferentially extended to new, though related meanings. In comprehension, frequent exposure to a word instead makes the learner confident that all of the word’s legitimate uses have been experienced, resulting in an entrenched form-meaning mapping between the word and its experienced meaning(s). This results in a perception-production dissociation, where the forms speakers are most likely to map onto a novel meaning are precisely the forms that they believe can never be used that way. At first glance, this result challenges the idea of bidirectional form-meaning mappings, assumed by all current approaches to linguistic theory. In this paper, we show that bidirectional form-meaning mappings are not in fact challenged by this production-perception dissociation. We show that the production-perception dissociation is expected even if learners of the lexicon acquire simple symmetrical form-meaning associations through simple Hebbian learning.

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