Paper: Language for Communication: Language as Rational Inference

ACL ID C14-1074
Title Language for Communication: Language as Rational Inference
Venue International Conference on Computational Linguistics
Session Main Conference
Year 2014

Invited Speaker Abstract Perhaps the most obvious hypothesis for the evolutionary function of human language is for use in com- munication. Chomsky has famously argued that this is a flawed hypothesis, because of the existence of such phenomena as ambiguity. Furthermore, he argues that the kinds of things that people tend to say are not short and simple, as would be predicted by communication theory. Contrary to Chomsky, my group applies information theory and communication theory from Shannon (1948) in order to attempt to explain the typical usage of language in comprehension and production, together with the structure of languages themselves. First, we show that ambiguity out of context is not only not a problem for an information-theoretic approach to language, it is a feature. Second, ...