CompLang is a student-run discussion group on language and computation. The aim of the group is to bring together the language community at MIT and nearby, learn about each other's research, and foster cross-laboratory collaborations. The broad topic of the meetings is using computational models to study scientific questions about language. We will discuss work from computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive science, natural language processing and formal linguistics.
This week's talk is from Meilin Zhan (MIT BCS):
Time: Thursday 10/4 at 5pm
Comparing theories of speaker choice using classifier production in Mandarin Chinese
Speakers often have more than one way to express the same meaning. What general principles govern speaker choice in the face of optionality when near semantically invariant alternation exists? Studies have shown that optional reduction in language is sensitive to contextual predictability, where the more predictable a linguistic unit is, the more likely it gets reduced. Yet it is unclear whether speaker choice is geared toward audience design, or toward facilitating production. Here we argue that for a different optionality phenomenon, namely classifier choice in Mandarin Chinese, Uniform Information Density and at least one plausible variant of availability-based production make opposite predictions regarding the relationship between the predictability of the upcoming material and speaker choices. In a corpus analysis of Mandarin Chinese, we show that the distribution of speaker choices supports the availability-based production account, and not Uniform Information Density.