A Model of Temporal Connective Acquisition

AbstractTemporal connectives are function words that relate events in time. Despite their ubiquity and utility, children acquire the meanings of temporal connective words late in development. Experimental work has uncovered patterns in the acquisition of temporal connectives that clarify the learning challenge that these words pose to children. In particular, developmental studies have identified differing acquisition trajectories across connective types, asymmetries in learning within pairs of related connectives, and monotonic increases in comprehension with age. Expanding on prior theoretical accounts, we formalize temporal connective acquisition in a computational word learning framework. We demonstrate that each of the empirically determined acquisition patterns emerges in the learning behavior of our computational model. Finally, we discuss our findings in relation to earlier theories and to general learnability concerns in language acquisition.

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