David Bailey's Research Page

What do words like push and pull really mean?
And how do children learn such verbs?

My dissertation research involved modelling children's acquisition of verb semantics for hand actions. This work is situated at the crossroads of artificial intelligence, linguistics, psychology, neuroscience, and connectionist (neural network) modelling. In a nutshell, I've developed an abstract but plausible model of high-level motor control, and shown how it can provide the underpinnings of the meanings of verbs like push, shove, pull, hold and so on, and similar words from other languages. By studying how biology constraints meaning, one hopes to explain how children learn words so quickly, despite the seemingly endless variation across languages.

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I am part of the Neural Theory of Language Project (formerly "L0"), directed by Jerry Feldman and George Lakoff. (My other committee members are Robert Wilensky and Dan Slobin.) For an overview of the language modelling work of our group at ICSI, see "L0: The First Five Years".

My colleague Srini Narayanan is busy showing the connection between motor control like representations and more abstract forms of thought.

For the next few years, the baton has been passed to graduate students Nancy Chang, David Andre, Masha Brodsky, Carol Bleyle and others.

An earlier project of mine involved inference through imagery in the domain of spatial prepositions, as an extension to Terry Regier's thesis on acquisition of spatial terms.

By David Bailey