Skip to main content

Toby Mintz

Toby Mintz of USC will speak at the UCSD Linguistics Department Colloquium on May 9, 2011, at 2:00 pm in AP&M 4301.

Distributional Analysis as a Method for Categorizing Words in Infancy

Grammatical categories such as noun, verb, adjective, etc., are the building blocks of syntactic structure. A crucial question in language acquisition research is how learners initially group words into categories. One possibility that has gained empirical support is that learners attend to distributional information--co-occurrence patterns of words and bound morphemes--categorizing words together that occur in similar environments (e.g., words that occur after "the" and "a", etc.). In my lab we have been studying distributional patterns in child-directed speech and have discovered a particular kind of distributional pattern, called a frequent frame, that categorizes words very accurately.  I will present a series of computational analyses of typologically distinct languages that demonstrate the informativeness of frequent frames cross-linguistically.  I will also discuss analyses that suggest why frequent frames, as opposed to other distributional patterns, are so informative.  Finally, I will also present behavioral studies with adults and infants that indicate that human learners usefrequent frames to categorize words.