The subject-object asymmetry revisited: Experimental and computational approaches to the role of information structure in children’s argument omissionsCitation formats

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The subject-object asymmetry revisited: Experimental and computational approaches to the role of information structure in children’s argument omissions. / Graf, Eileen; Theakston, Anna; Freudenthal, Daniel; Lieven, Elena.

In: IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, 2019.

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@article{dc79a27ea43a4e1e9d157f7c624e45bc,
title = "The subject-object asymmetry revisited: Experimental and computational approaches to the role of information structure in children’s argument omissions",
abstract = "In two studies we investigated the relation between information structure and argument omission in German child language in order to quantify to what extent the subject-object hypothesis (i.e., subjects are omitted more often than objects) is influenced by discourse pragmatics. Twenty-four children took part in an elicited production study in which they produced transitive SVO and OVS sentences. Both constructions are instances of a topic-comment information structure. The results showed that 3;6 year-old children omitted subjects and objects alike when the arguments assumed topics status and were placed in utterance-initial position. In a second study we then assessed whether a model of language learning implemented with a recency-bias (resulting in learning from the end of utterances) would produce similar omission rates of initial arguments. The model was found to be sensitive to the frequency with which both word orders occurred in the input: Initial objects were omitted more often than initial subjects, the pattern found in German caregiver speech. The results suggest that argument omission is heavily influenced by information structure and that a subject-object asymmetry per se does not exist.",
keywords = "Language development, argument omission, information structure, subject-object asymmetry, null-subjects, object drop, experimental pragmatics, computational models of language learning, Model of Syntax Acquisition in Children (MOSAIC)",
author = "Eileen Graf and Anna Theakston and Daniel Freudenthal and Elena Lieven",
year = "2019",
doi = "10.1109/TCDS.2019.2938924",
language = "English",
journal = "IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems",
issn = "2379-8920",
publisher = "IEEE",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - The subject-object asymmetry revisited: Experimental and computational approaches to the role of information structure in children’s argument omissions

AU - Graf, Eileen

AU - Theakston, Anna

AU - Freudenthal, Daniel

AU - Lieven, Elena

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - In two studies we investigated the relation between information structure and argument omission in German child language in order to quantify to what extent the subject-object hypothesis (i.e., subjects are omitted more often than objects) is influenced by discourse pragmatics. Twenty-four children took part in an elicited production study in which they produced transitive SVO and OVS sentences. Both constructions are instances of a topic-comment information structure. The results showed that 3;6 year-old children omitted subjects and objects alike when the arguments assumed topics status and were placed in utterance-initial position. In a second study we then assessed whether a model of language learning implemented with a recency-bias (resulting in learning from the end of utterances) would produce similar omission rates of initial arguments. The model was found to be sensitive to the frequency with which both word orders occurred in the input: Initial objects were omitted more often than initial subjects, the pattern found in German caregiver speech. The results suggest that argument omission is heavily influenced by information structure and that a subject-object asymmetry per se does not exist.

AB - In two studies we investigated the relation between information structure and argument omission in German child language in order to quantify to what extent the subject-object hypothesis (i.e., subjects are omitted more often than objects) is influenced by discourse pragmatics. Twenty-four children took part in an elicited production study in which they produced transitive SVO and OVS sentences. Both constructions are instances of a topic-comment information structure. The results showed that 3;6 year-old children omitted subjects and objects alike when the arguments assumed topics status and were placed in utterance-initial position. In a second study we then assessed whether a model of language learning implemented with a recency-bias (resulting in learning from the end of utterances) would produce similar omission rates of initial arguments. The model was found to be sensitive to the frequency with which both word orders occurred in the input: Initial objects were omitted more often than initial subjects, the pattern found in German caregiver speech. The results suggest that argument omission is heavily influenced by information structure and that a subject-object asymmetry per se does not exist.

KW - Language development

KW - argument omission

KW - information structure

KW - subject-object asymmetry

KW - null-subjects

KW - object drop

KW - experimental pragmatics

KW - computational models of language learning

KW - Model of Syntax Acquisition in Children (MOSAIC)

U2 - 10.1109/TCDS.2019.2938924

DO - 10.1109/TCDS.2019.2938924

M3 - Article

JO - IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems

JF - IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems

SN - 2379-8920

ER -