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PsychoCompLA-2008  (previous meetings: PsychoCompLA-2004, PsychoCompLA-2005, PsychoCompLA-2007)

Organized by the CUNY-CoLAG research group

Wednesday July 23rd at CogSci 2008 - Washington, DC

Submission deadline: Passed.

Workshop Topic The workshop is devoted to psychologically-motivated computational models of language acquisition. That is, models that are compatible with research in psycholinguistics, developmental psychology and linguistics.

Workshop Theme Although the workshop program speaks to many facets of psychocomputational language acquisition modeling, the theme of the workshop this year is:


Computational resources: How much is just right, and does it matter?


The computational resources (e.g., number of calculations per input datum, size of memory store, etc.) employed by current psychocomputational modeling efforts vary tremendously from model to model. However, two important questions have rarely been addressed. How well do a particular acquisition model's resources parallel the resources employed by a human language learner? And, how relevant (or not) is it to establish such a relationship?

Invited Speakers:

Rens Bod
Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam

Damir Cavar
of Indiana and Zadar University

Jeffery Lidz
of Maryland

Gary Marcus
New York University

Josh Tenenbaum
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Towards Understanding the Role of Semantics in Natural Language Acquisition

  Dana Angluin and Leonor Becerra-Bonache, Yale University


Evaluating Constructivist Theory via Unsupervised Bayesian Grammar Induction

  Colin Bannard and Elena Lieven, Max Planck Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology

  Michael Tomasello, Max Planck Institute For Evolutionary Anthropology and School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester


Modelling Semantic Property Acquisition From Single Linguistic Exposures

  Marco Baroni, University of Trento

  Alessandro Lenci, University of Pisa

  Brian Murphy and Massimo Poesio, University of Trento


Incorporating Phrase Structure into an N-Gram Model of Syntax Acquisition

  Xuƒn-Nga Cao-Kam, The Graduate Center, City University of New York


Efficient Learning of Natural Languages with Lattice Based Representations

  Alexander Clark, Royal Holloway University of London


Can Statistical Parsers WOW! You: A Cognitive Assessment

  Sandiway Fong, University of Arizona

  Robert C. Berwick, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Bayesian Decision Theory, Iterated Learning and Portuguese Clitics

  Catherine Lai, University of Pennsylvania


Computational Resources, How Much is Just Right, and Does It Matter?

  William Gregory Sakas, Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York


Modeling Artificial Grammar Learning Results: Why Claims About Structural Cues Have Yet to be Substantiated

  Sarah VanWagenen, Stanford University


Empirical Evidence for Recursive Hierarchical Structure in Child Language

  Willem Zuidema, Leiden University and Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of Amsterdam


Workshop History This is the fourth meeting of the Psychocomputational Models of Human Language Acquisition workshop following PsychoCompLA-2004, held in Geneva, Switzerland as part of the 20th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2004), PsychoCompLA-2005 as part of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL-2005) held in Ann Arbor, Michigan where the workshop shared a joint session with the Ninth Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL-2005) and and  PsychoCompLA-2007 held in Nashville, Tennessee as part of the 29th meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci-2007).


Workshop Description The workshop will present research and foster discussion centered around psychologically-motivated computational models of language acquisition, with an emphasis on the acquisition of syntax. In recent decades there has been a thriving research agenda that applies computational learning techniques to emerging natural language technologies and many meetings, conferences and workshops in which to present such research. However, there have been only a few (but growing number of) venues in which psychocomputational models of how humans acquire their native language(s) are the primary focus.


Psychocomputational models of language acquisition are of particular interest in light of recent results in developmental psychology that suggest that very young infants are adept at detecting statistical patterns in an audible input stream. Though, how children might plausibly apply statistical 'machinery' to the task of grammar acquisition, with or without an innate language component, remains an open and important question. One effective line of investigation is to computationally model the acquisition process and determine interrelationships between a model and linguistic or psycholinguistic theory, and/or correlations between a model's performance and data from linguistic environments that children are exposed to.

Topics and Goals:

·        Models that address the acquisition of word-order;

·        Models that combine parsing and learning;

·        Formal learning-theoretic and grammar induction models that incorporate psychologically plausible constraints;

·        Comparative surveys that critique previously reported studies;

·        Models that have a cross-linguistic or bilingual perspective;

·        Models that address learning bias in terms of innate linguistic knowledge versus statistical regularity in the input;

·        Models that employ language modeling techniques from corpus linguistics;

·        Models that employ techniques from machine learning;

·        Models of language change and its effect on language acquisition or vice versa.

·        Models that employ statistical/probabilistic grammars;

·        Computational models that can be used to evaluate existing linguistic or developmental theories (e.g., principles & parameters, optimality theory, construction grammar, etc.)

·        Empirical models that make use of child-directed corpora such as CHILDES.

This workshop intends to bring together researchers from cognitive psychology, computational linguistics, other computer/mathematical sciences, linguistics and psycholinguistics working on all areas of language acquisition. Diversity and cross-fertilization of ideas is the central goal.

Workshop Organizer: William Gregory Sakas, City University of New York (sakas at
Workshop Co-organizer: David Guy Brizan, City University of New York (dbrizan at

Program Committee:

·        Rens Bod, Institute for Logic, Language and Computation, University of

·        Amsterdam, Netherlands

·        David Guy Brizan, City University of New York, USA

·        Damir Cavar, University of Indiana, USA and Zadar University, Croatia Gary

·        Marcus, New York University,

·        Nick Chater, University of College London, UK

·        Alex Clark, Royal Holloway University of London, UK

·        Rick Dale, University of Memphis, USA

·        Jeffery Lidz, University of Maryland, USA

·        Gary Marcus, New York University, USA

·        Lisa Pearl, University of California, Irvine, USA

·        William Gregory Sakas, City University of New York, USA

·        Josh Tenenbaum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

·        Charles D. Yang, University of Pennsylvania, USA


with  PsychoCompLA-2008  somewhere in the subject line.