Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On reading Quasiregularity and its discontents

Months ago, before we'd met, my PhD supervisor, Nik Gisborne, mentioned to me that he does most of his work in the area of construction grammar. Since, I didn't know what this was, I've been doing some reading in the lead up to my studies at Edinburgh, and on top of many other things, I've come to think that I need to know a good deal more about semantics than I currently do. In response, I've now borrowed a number of books on the topic and attended the first lecture in Nik's Introduction to Semantics course. That is to say, I've got a lot of reading lined up in this area.

Nevertheless, prompted by Mark Liberman's LL post, I decided to read Quasiregularity and its discontents. I had no expectation at all that it would have anything to do with semantics, but I remember reading with excitement Rumelhart and McClelland’s 1986 chapter about a parallel distributed processing model learning the past tense, and I was very curious to know how things have developed in the fifteen years or so since I stopped reading much in that area.

And yet I did find various areas of relevance. The repeated references in the article to the effect of phonology and semantics  suggested that I was right to feel that I need to learn more about that area and support the claims of various theorists that a theory of syntax has to deal with semantics.

The discussions of modeling also reminded me of a paper by Gelman & Shalizi I read this summer, which I got the general idea of, but the particulars of which often required statistical knowledge outside my ken.

Not a particularly coherent first post, but I've got to get back to reading.

Gelman, A., & Shalizi, C. R. (2013). Philosophy and the practice of Bayesian statistics. The British Journal of Mathematical and Statistical Psychology, 66(1), 8–38. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8317.2011.02037.x
Seidenberg, M. S., & Plaut, D. C. (2014). Quasiregularity and its discontents: The legacy of the past tense debate. Cognitive Science, 1–39. doi:10.1111/cogs.12147

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