BLISS: an Artificial Language for Learnability Studies

Research paper by Sahar Pirmoradian, Alessandro Treves

Indexed on: 20 Oct '11Published on: 20 Oct '11Published in: Cognitive Computation


To explore neurocognitive mechanisms underlying the human language faculty, cognitive scientists use artificial languages to control more precisely the language learning environment and to study selected aspects of natural languages. Artificial languages applied in cognitive studies are usually designed ad hoc, to only probe a specific hypothesis, and they include a miniature grammar and a very small vocabulary. The aim of the present study is the construction of an artificial language incorporating both syntax and semantics, BLISS. Of intermediate complexity, BLISS mimics natural languages by having a vocabulary, syntax, and some semantics, as defined by a degree of non-syntactic statistical dependence between words. We quantify, using information theoretical measures, dependencies between words in BLISS sentences as well as differences between the distinct models we introduce for semantics. While modeling English syntax in its basic version, BLISS can be easily varied in its internal parametric structure, thus allowing studies of the relative learnability of different parameter sets.