Generating structure from experience: The role of memory in language

Brendan JohnsQueen's University
Michael JonesIndiana University, Bloomington

Abstract

Theories of language have generally assumed that abstraction of the linguistic input is necessary in order to create higher-level representations of the workings of a language (i.e. a grammar). However, the importance of individual experiences with language has recently been emphasized by many, including usage-based theories (Tomasello, 2003). Based upon this, a formal exemplar model of language is described, which stores instances of sentences across a natural language corpus, using recent advances from models of semantic memory. This memory store is used to generate expectations about the future structure of sentences. The model can successfully capture a variety of different behavioral results. This work provides evidence that much of language processing may be bottom-up in nature, based upon the storage and retrieval of individual experiences with language.

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