Distributional learning and lexical category acquisition: what makes words easy to categorize?

Giovanni Cassani*, Robert Grimm, Steven Gillis, Walter Daelemans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientificpeer-review


In this study, results of computational simulations on English child-directed speech are presented to uncover what distribu- tional properties of words make it easier to group them into lexical categories. This analysis provides evidence that words are easier to categorize when (i) they are hard to predict given the contexts they occur in; (ii) they occur in few different con- texts; and (iii) their contextual distributions have a low entropy, meaning that they tend to occur more often in one of the con- texts they occur in. This profile fits that of content words, espe- cially nouns and verbs, which is consistent with developmental evidence showing that children learning English start by form- ing a noun and a verb category. These results further charac- terize the role of distributional information in lexical category acquisition and confirm that it is a robust, reliable, and devel- opmentally plausible source to learn lexical categories.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes


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