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Place of statistics in a language model

Keywords: morphology, corpus linguistics, linguistic variation, text statistics

The article speculates on how quantitative data may fit into a theoretical model of language. It argues that the language model should include an idea about the generation procedure at play, albeit a speculative one. A concrete example shows how quantitative data form an integral part of a model of Estonian morphology, another concrete example shows how corpus-based statistical models may result in dubious statistical calculations, and two descriptions of old experiments in statistical learning show a potential path worth following in corpus linguistics in the future: one should pay more attention to some not-so-obvious features that play a role in human language learning, namely, transitional probabilities and linguistic units that should be left out from computations.

Heiki-Jaan Kaalep (b. 1962), PhD, University of Tartu, Senior Researcher, Heiki-Jaan.Kaalep@ut.ee

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