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University of Western Australia

Department of Computer Science

Technical Report 90/5



T Mark Ellison

Summary: People can learn languages quickly from little information, defying the complexity of the task. The usual explanation states that the language learner has a detailed domain-specific model of language built in, and that language learning is only setting parameters to this model. It is possible, however, to learn about a language with little or no a priori information. In this report I present an algorithm for finding planar segregations of phonemes for particular languages. This algorithm requires no domain-specific knowledge of phonology or phonetics. Despite this lack of knowledge, the implemented algorithm has identified the structurally significant segregations for thirty languages.

Keywords: inductive inference, computational linguistics, algorithmic complexity.

March 1990