Verb Inflections in German Child Language: A Connectionist Account (1994)
The emerging function of verb inflections in German language acquisition is modeled with a connectionist network. A network that is initially presented only with a semantic representation of sentences uses the inflectional verb ending -t to mark those sentences that are low in transitivity, whereas all other verb endings occur randomly. This behavior matches an early stage in German language acquisition where verb endings encode a similar semantic rather than a grammatical function. When information about the surface structure of the sentence is added to the input data, the network learns to use the correct verb inflections in a process very similar to children's learning. This second phase is facilitated by the semantic phase, suggesting that there is no shift from semantic to grammatical encoding, but rather an extension of the initial semantic encoding to include grammatical information. This can be seen as evidence for the strong version of the functionalist hypothesis of language acquisition.
In Proceedings of the 16th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, Ashwin Ram and Kurt Eiselt (Eds.), pp. 928-933 1994. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Risto Miikkulainen Faculty risto [at] cs utexas edu
Gert Westermann Formerly affiliated Visitor gwestermann [at] brookes ac uk