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Briscoe, E. J. (2003) Grammatical Assimilation. In M.H. Christiansen and S. Kirby, editors, Language Evolution: The States of the Art. Oxford University Press.

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Paper at a Glance

Grammatical Assimilation
Ted Briscoe
Computer Laboratory
University of Cambridge

1 Introduction In this paper, I will review arguments for and against the emergence and main- tenance of an innate language acquisition device (LAD) via genetic assimilation. By a LAD, I mean nothing more or less than a learning mechanism which in- corporates some language-speci c inductive bias. 1 I will adopt a coevolutionary model in which natural languages are treated as complex adaptive systems un- dergoing often conicting selection pressures, some of which emanate from the LAD, which itself evolved in response to (proto)languages in the environment of adaptation Of course, the existence of an innate LAD has not gone unquestioned, and it is certainly the case that many arguments that have been proposed in its favour are either questionable or wrong (e.g. Pullum and Scholz, forthcoming; Sampson, 1989, 1999). It is not my intention to review this debate here. However, I will argue that all remotely adequate extant models of grammatical acquisition that have been proposed presuppose a LAD, and that genetic assimilation is the only coherent account of its emergence and maintenance. These arguments, even if awless, do not constitute a proof either of the existence of an innate LAD, or 1 The term inductive bias is utilised in the eld of machine learning to characterise both hard constraints on the hypothesis space considered by a learner, usually imposed by a restricted representation language for hypotheses, and soft constraints which create preferences within the hypothesis space, usually encoded in terms of cost metric or prior probability distribution on hypotheses (e.g. Mitchell, 1997:39f). 1 that it emerged by genetic assimilation. However, they do suggest that the onus is on non-nativists to demonstrate an adequate detailed account of grammatical acquisition which does not rely on a LAD, and on non-assimilationists to propose a detailed and plausible alternative mechanism
  author={E. J. Briscoe},
  title={Grammatical Assimilation},
  editor={M.H. Christiansen and S. Kirby},
  publisher={Oxford University Press},
  booktitle={Language Evolution: The States of the Art},