Chapter 2. A connectionist account of the acquisition and processing of relative clauses

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Relative clause processing depends on the grammatical role of the head noun in the subordinate clause. This has traditionally been explained in terms of cognitive limitations. We suggest that structure-related processing differences arise from differences in experience with these structures. We present a connectionist model which learns to produce utterances with relative clauses from exposure to message-sentence pairs. The model shows how various factors such as frequent subsequences, structural variations, and meaning conspire to create differences in the processing of these structures. The predictions of this learning-based account have been confirmed in behavioral studies with adults. This work shows that structural regularities that govern relative clause processing can be explained within a usage-based approach to recursion.


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