A learning-efficiency explanation of structure in language

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Abstract

This paper proposes a learning-efficiency explanation of modular structure in language. An optimal grammar arises as the solution to the problem of learning a language from a minimal number of observations of instances of the use of the language. Agents face symmetry constraints that limit their ability to make a priori distinctions among symbols used in the language and among objects (interpreted as facts, events, speaker's intentions) that are to be represented by messages in the language. It is shown that if it is commonly known that the object space is modular and messages are strings, then modularity of the language is sufficient and (essentially) necessary for learning efficiency. Journal of Economic Literature Classification Number: C72.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)265-285
Number of pages21
JournalTheory and Decision
Volume57
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Grammar
  • Language
  • Learning
  • Mechanism design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)
  • Computer Science Applications

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