Distributional Information: A Powerful Cue for Acquiring Syntactic Categories


Department of Psychology, University College London, London, UK, WC1E6BT;m.redington@ucl.ac.uk

Psychology Department, University of Warwick, Coventry, CV47AL, UK; Nick.Chater@warwick.ac.uk


Many theorists have dismissed a priori the idea that distributional information could play a significant role in syntactic category acquisition. We demonstrate empirically that such information provides a powerful cue to syntactic category membership, which can be exploited by a variety of simple, psychologically plausible mechanisms. We present a range of results using a large corpus of child-directed speech and explore their psychological implications. While our results show that a considerable amount of information concerning the syntactic categories can be obtained from distributional information alone, we stress that many other sources of information may also be potential contributors to the identification of syntactic classes.