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Front Neurorobot. 2014 May 6;8:16. doi: 10.3389/fnbot.2014.00016. eCollection 2014.

Exploring the acquisition and production of grammatical constructions through human-robot interaction with echo state networks.

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Stem Cell and Brain Research Institute, INSERM U846 Bron, France ; Université de Lyon, Université Lyon I Lyon, France.
Stem Cell and Brain Research Institute, INSERM U846 Bron, France ; Université de Lyon, Université Lyon I Lyon, France ; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Bron, France.


One of the principal functions of human language is to allow people to coordinate joint action. This includes the description of events, requests for action, and their organization in time. A crucial component of language acquisition is learning the grammatical structures that allow the expression of such complex meaning related to physical events. The current research investigates the learning of grammatical constructions and their temporal organization in the context of human-robot physical interaction with the embodied sensorimotor humanoid platform, the iCub. We demonstrate three noteworthy phenomena. First, a recurrent network model is used in conjunction with this robotic platform to learn the mappings between grammatical forms and predicate-argument representations of meanings related to events, and the robot's execution of these events in time. Second, this learning mechanism functions in the inverse sense, i.e., in a language production mode, where rather than executing commanded actions, the robot will describe the results of human generated actions. Finally, we collect data from naïve subjects who interact with the robot via spoken language, and demonstrate significant learning and generalization results. This allows us to conclude that such a neural language learning system not only helps to characterize and understand some aspects of human language acquisition, but also that it can be useful in adaptive human-robot interaction.


anytime processing; grammatical constructions; human-robot interaction; iCub humanoid; language acquisition; language production; recurrent neural networks; reservoir computing

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