At this semester’s first MCQLL meeting, Eva Portelance will be presenting The roles of neural networks in language acquisition.

Tuesday, January 9, 15:00–16:00 (Montréal time, UTC-5)
MCQLL meetings this semester are in hybrid format. We will meet in-person in room 117 of the McGill Linguistics Department, 1085 Dr-Penfield. If you’d like to attend virtually, the Zoom link is here.

All are welcome to attend.

  • Speaker:
    Eva Portelance
    The roles of neural networks in language acquisition

    How can modern neural networks like large language models be useful to the field of language acquisition, and more broadly cognitive science, if they are not a priori designed to be cognitive models? As developments towards natural language understanding and generation have improved leaps and bounds, with models like GPT-4, the question of how they can inform our understanding of human language acquisition has re-emerged. As such, it is critical to examine how in practice linking hypotheses between models and human learners can be safely established. To address these questions, I present a model taxonomy, including four modeling approaches, each having differing goals, from exploratory hypothesis generation to hypothesis differentiation and testing. I ground each approach in the realist vs. instrumentalist debates in philosophy of science and present in practice examples of two of these approaches from my own work.