Cognitive architectures and language acquisition: a case study in pronoun comprehension

J Child Lang. 2010 Jun;37(3):731-66. doi: 10.1017/S0305000909990560. Epub 2010 Mar 30.


In this paper we discuss a computational cognitive model of children's poor performance on pronoun interpretation (the so-called Delay of Principle B Effect, or DPBE). This cognitive model is based on a theoretical account that attributes the DPBE to children's inability as hearers to also take into account the speaker's perspective. The cognitive model predicts that child hearers are unable to do so because their speed of linguistic processing is too limited to perform this second step in interpretation. We tested this hypothesis empirically in a psycholinguistic study, in which we slowed down the speech rate to give children more time for interpretation, and in a computational simulation study. The results of the two studies confirm the predictions of our model. Moreover, these studies show that embedding a theory of linguistic competence in a cognitive architecture allows for the generation of detailed and testable predictions with respect to linguistic performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Comprehension*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Linguistics
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Speech
  • Speech Perception*
  • Theory of Mind
  • Time Factors