When Domain General Learning Succeeds and When it Fails

Lisa Pearl, Jeffrey Lidz

We identify three components of any learning theory: the representations, the learner’s data intake, and the learning algorithm. With these in mind, we model the acquisition of the English anaphoric pronoun one in order to identify necessary constraints for successful acquisition, and the nature of those constraints. Whereas previous modeling efforts have succeeded by using a domain-general learning algorithm that implicitly restricts the data intake to be a subset of the input, we show that the same kind of domain-general learning algorithm fails when it does not restrict the data intake. We argue that the necessary data intake restrictions are domain-specific in nature. Thus, while a domain-general algorithm can be quite powerful, a successful learner must also rely on domain-specific learning mechanisms when learning anaphoric one.