The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Rawski at University of Buffalo colloquium (10/18)

Jon Rawski (Visiting Professor, MIT; Assistant Professor, SJSU Linguistics) gave a colloquium talk at University of Buffalo Center for Cognitive Science on Oct. 18!
Title: Rethinking Poverty of the Stimulus
Abstract: This talk reimagines the “poverty of the stimulus” in language acquisition and linguistic theory. I will explain deficiencies and confusions in PovStim and in “grammar induction” more generally. I will argue for a move from acquisition as induction to abduction, focused around a core inference problem of “richness of the hypothesis space”. I will give a mathematical characterization of hypothesis generation, shifting the focus from grammars to classes of grammars, organized around particular intrinsic properties. The search for grammars becomes a constraint-satisfaction problem (not in the OT sense) guided by tractability, learnability, and other covering criteria, in line with current results and perspectives in psychology, linguistics, and computer science. I will discuss these and some recent work inferring grammars from data.