Modeling the emergence of sensitivity to word order: the case of adjective-noun constructions

De La Cruz, V. M. . & Plebe, A.

Cognitive Science Dept., University of Messina, Italy

Studies have shown that children as young as two years of age appear to be sensitive to the canonical word order of their native language, especially when dealing with familiar words as opposed to unfamiliar ones. Older children between the ages of three and four have shown to be relatively conservative, correcting non-canonical word order more often than two year olds, especially when dealing with verb-clauses, but less so with the order of adjective-noun constructions. How children learn the order of adjective-noun constructions, remains a relatively under explored topic in studies of language acquisition. Using a group of self-organizing neurocomputational models as artificial learners, we explore how the sensitivity to the order of adjective-noun constructions may initially emerge solely as a result of experience, based on the exposure to objects, their labels and word classes denoting a property such as color. We develop two populations of artificial learners corresponding to two different moments or stages in development, and compare their abilities to learn novel object names and adjectives presented in a canonical word order and subsequently, contrast the learned input with grammatical word order, to that with ungrammatical word order, adopting the Weird Word Order (WWO) paradigm approach. Initial results, replicate in part those found in experimental and behavioral studies with real children, that is, that the more experience the artificial learners have with specific words, the less likely they are to ?accept? the mis-ordering of those words.