Usage-based Construction Learning

For my doctoral research I built a model of the acquisition of early multiword and grammatical constructions, with special attention to relational form-meaning mappings. The main components of the approach taken in this work are:

  • rich situational representations that approximate the conceptual world available to a language-learning toddler;
  • a computationally precise grammatical formalism for representing linguistic constructions pairing these rich meanings with elements of form;
  • and a usage-based approach to learning such constructions from a corpus of utterance-situation pairs, based on minimum description length.

Together these representations, both conceptual and constructional, support a tractable usage-based model of child language acquisition, with a central role for meaning as it is communicated in context.


N. Chang. 2008. Constructing grammar: A computational model of the emergence of early constructions (PDF). Computer Science Division, University of California at Berkeley dissertation.
See here for more learning publications. Selected dissertation chapters:
Dissertation abstract
Chapter 1. Beyond single words (non-technical introduction, research context and goals)
Chapter 2. Orientations (survey of multidisciplinary background assumptions)
Chapter 3. Embodied Construction Grammar (introduction to ECG formalism)
Chapter 5. Learning embodied constructions (problem definition/approach)
Chapter 9. Conclusions