Reinforcement learning of minimalist grammars

Peter beim Graben, Ronald Römer, Werner Meyer, Markus Huber, Matthias Wolff

Speech-controlled user interfaces facilitate the operation of devices and household functions to laymen. State-of-the-art language technology scans the acoustically analyzed speech signal for relevant keywords that are subsequently inserted into semantic slots to interpret the user's intent. In order to develop proper cognitive information and communication technologies, simple slot-filling should be replaced by utterance meaning transducers (UMT) that are based on semantic parsers and a mental lexicon, comprising syntactic, phonetic and semantic features of the language under consideration. This lexicon must be acquired by a cognitive agent during interaction with its users. We outline a reinforcement learning algorithm for the acquisition of syntax and semantics of English utterances, based on minimalist grammar (MG), a recent computational implementation of generative linguistics. English declarative sentences are presented to the agent by a teacher in form of utterance meaning pairs (UMP) where the meanings are encoded as formulas of predicate logic. Since MG codifies universal linguistic competence through inference rules, thereby separating innate linguistic knowledge from the contingently acquired lexicon, our approach unifies generative grammar and reinforcement learning, hence potentially resolving the still pending Chomsky-Skinner controversy.

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