Inaccurate representations, inaccurate deployment, or both? Using computational cognitive modeling to investigate the development of pronoun interpretation in Spanish
Lisa Pearl, Hannah Forsythe
August 2021

When children behave differently from adults in language tasks, it’s often unclear if the underlying cause is an inaccurate representation of relevant information, inaccurate deployment of accurate representations, or both inaccurate representations and inaccurate deployment. We show how computational cognitive modeling can be used to identify which options could lead to non-adult-like language behavior, using the case study of Spanish subject pronoun interpretation by typically-developing preschoolers. In a picture-selection task, children interpret sub- ject pronouns differently from adults; modeling results suggest that children are likely either always deploying inaccurate representations of their input, or selectively deploying accurate representations, but not selectively deploying inaccurate representations. In contrast, adults are likely always deploying inaccurate representations. So, to become adult-like, children need to learn how to be inaccurate in the right ways for potentially both representation and deployment of pronoun information. We discuss the promise and the limitations of the computational cognitive modeling approach demonstrated here for evaluating specific hypotheses about the underlying cognitive computations leading to observed language behavior.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/006141
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: bayesian inference, computational cognitive modeling, knowledge deployment, knowledge representations, picture-selection task, pronoun interpretation, spanish, semantics, syntax
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