Edward Gibson, MIT -- "Language for Communication: Language as Rational Inference"

 

Edward Gibson, MIT -- "Language for Communication: Language as Rational Inference"

Sage 4101

October 8, 2014 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Professor Edward (Ted) Gibson, MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences will discuss Language for communication: Language as rational inference.  Perhaps the most obvious hypothesis for the evolutionary function of human language is for use in communication.  Chomsky has famously argued that this is a flawed hypothesis, because of the existence of such phenomena as ambiguity.  Furthermore, he argues that the kinds of things that people tend to say are not short and simple, as would be predicted by communication theory.  Contrary to Chomsky, my group applies information theory and communication theory from Shannon (1948) in order to attempt to explain the typical usage of language in comprehension and production, together with the structure of languages themselves.  First, we show that ambiguity out of context is not only not a problem for an information-theoretic approach to language, it is a feature.  Second, we show that language comprehension appears to function as a noisy channel process, in line with communication theory.

 

HD VIDEO LINK

 

Download the paper. 

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