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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)530 - 544
JournalIEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems
Journal publication date1 Sep 2018
Early online date27 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018


Modern theories on early child language acquisition
tend to focus on referential words, mostly nouns, labeling concrete
objects or physical properties. In this experimental study we
show how non-referential negation words, typically belonging to
a child’s first ten words, may be acquired. A child-like humanoid
robot is deployed in speech-wise unconstrained interaction with
na¨ıve human participants. In agreement with psycholinguistic
observations we corroborate the hypothesis that affect plays a
pivotal role in the socially distributed acquisition process where
the adept conversation partner provides linguistic interpretations
of the affective displays of the less adept speaker. Negation words
are prosodically salient within intent interpretations that are
triggered by the learner’s display of affect. From there they can
be picked up and used by the budding language learner which
may involve the grounding of these words in the very affective
states that triggered them in the first place. The pragmatic
analysis of the robot’s linguistic performance indicates that the
correct timing of negative utterances is essential for the listener to
infer the meaning of otherwise ambiguous negative utterances. In
order to assess the robot’s performance thoroughly comparative
data from psycholinguistic studies of parent-child dyads is needed
highlighting the need for further interdisciplinary work.


© 2017 IEEE. This article has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems. Personal use of this material is permitted. Permission from IEEE must be obtained for all other users, including reprinting/ republishing this material for advertising or promotional purposes, creating new collective works for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or reuse of any copyrighted components of this work in other works.

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