Minds and Machines

, Volume 15, Issue 3–4, pp 359–382 | Cite as

Two Apparent ‘Counterexamples’ To Marcus: A Closer Look

  • Marius Vilcu
  • Robert F. Hadley


Marcus et al.’s experiment (1999) concerning infant ability to distinguish between differing syntactic structures has prompted connectionists to strive to show that certain types of neural networks can mimic the infants’ results. In this paper we take a closer look at two such attempts: Shultz and Bale [Shultz, T.R. and Bale, A.C. (2001), Infancy 2, pp. 501–536] Altmann and Dienes [Altmann, G.T.M. and Dienes, Z. (1999) Science 248, p. 875a]. We were not only interested in how well these two models matched the infants’ results, but also whether they were genuinely learning the grammars involved in this process. After performing an extensive set of experiments, we found that, at first blush, Shultz and Bale’s model (2001) replicated the infant’s known data, but the model largely failed to learn the grammars. We also found serious problems with Altmann and Dienes’ model (1999), which fell short of matching any of the infant’s results and of learning the syntactic structure of the input patterns.


artificial grammars connectionism grammar learning neural networks simple recurrent networks syntactic structures 



simple recurrent network


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Computing ScienceSimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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