Mechanisms of argument structure realisation in human languages
Recent enlightening overviews on the emergence of human syntax have proposed that "syntax is tightly linked with how events in the external world are perceived, structured and mentally represented."
The valency of a verb is expressed through its arguments in very many ways. Arguments can be explicit or implicit, they vary in the mapping of their semantic role onto their grammatical function in verb alternations, they vary in their way of marking the grammatical function, by word order or case, among other ways.
Current large-scale treebank annotation projects have produced naturalistic data annotated with relevant information for very many languages. These treebanks enable the precise and fine-grained quantification of argument structure variability at the sentence level for many languages and support computational models of its learning.
In this talk, I will provide an overview of past and current computational approaches to verb lexical semantics which provide an articulate view of the mapping from event structure to syntax. In particular I will illustrate cases of mismatches of argument structure and grammatical functions (subjects that are not agents and objects that are not patients). Looking at these minority mappings and how to automatically learn them in simple and complex computational models could provide crucial minimal experimental pairs to study the evolutionary emerge of syntax.
Paola Merlo is associate professor in the Linguistics department of the University of Geneva. She is the head of the interdisciplinary research group Computational Learning and Computational Linguistics (CLCL). The group is concerned with interdisciplinary research combining linguistic modelling with machine learning techniques. Prof. Merlo has been editor of Computational Linguistics, and is an ACL Fellow. Prof. Merlo holds a doctorate in Computational Linguistics from the University of Maryland, USA. She has been associate research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and visiting scholar at Rutgers, Edinburgh, Stanford and Uppsala.