GIOIA

Researchers: Ireti Fakinlede

Introduction

Language acquisition, the process by which a human acquires the ability to recognize and produce language that other speakers can understand, remains a hotly debated topic in linguistics. Whether genetically, cognitively or socially inspired, generic or specialized, we take as given the existence of the language acquisition device (i.e. the mix of cognitive tools), knowledge and learning mechanisms by which human children acquire their first language. This project aims at artificially producing such a device, named GIOIA. The goal is to use this device to effectively develop pragmatic competence in conversational software agents.

Further description

Language acquisition, the process by which a human acquires the ability to recognize and produce language that other speakers can understand, remains a hotly debated topic in linguistics. Nativist theorists i.e. Chomsky, Pinker and Gold, offer their observations of the human language acquisition process as proof that human beings possess a specialized innate neurological support for linguistic competence (phonology, lexicon and grammar). That is, a prewiring to adapt to language which Pinker calls ‘the language instinct’ and Chomsky refers to as ‘the language acquisition device’. Their views are opposed by behaviorists, constructivist and social interaction theorists who emphasize the role of social interaction in shaping human language acquisition. Constructivist focus on the formative years during which human learners gain linguistic competence through interaction with and mimicry of mature speakers of the language. I take the stance that both arguments are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Both arguments favor the existence of cognitive support for language acquisition; the difference is whether those tools have been adapted specially for language or are these the same tools that support other human learning abilities. Literature shows that there are some aspects of language acquisition that may be explained by innate abilities and some aspects that can be explained as a consequence of socialization. Whether genetically, cognitively or socially inspired, generic or specialized, I take as given the existence of the language acquisition device i.e. the mix of cognitive tools, knowledge and learning mechanisms by which human children acquire their first language. In this work I propose to artificially produce such a device, named GIOIA. My goal is to use this device to effectively develop pragmatic competence in conversational software agents.

 

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