Computational modeling for language acquisition: A tutorial with syntactic islands

Lisa S. Pearl, Jon Sprouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Given the growing prominence of computational modeling in the acquisition research community, we present a tutorial on how to use computational modeling to investigate learning strategies that underlie the acquisition process. This is useful for understanding both typical and atypical linguistic development. Method: We provide a general overview of why modeling can be a particularly informative tool and some general considerations when creating a computational acquisition model. We then review a concrete example of a computational acquisition model for complex structural knowledge referred to as syntactic islands. This includes an overview of syntactic islands knowledge, a precise definition of the acquisition task being modeled, the modeling results, and how to meaningfully interpret those results in a way that is relevant for questions about knowledge representation and the learning process. Conclusions: Computational modeling is a powerful tool that can be used to understand linguistic development. The general approach presented here can be used to investigate any acquisition task and any learning strategy, provided both are precisely defined.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)740-753
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


Dive into the research topics of 'Computational modeling for language acquisition: A tutorial with syntactic islands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this