A Constructivist Approach to Robot Language Learning via Simulated Babbling and Holophrase Extraction
It is thought that meaning may be grounded in early childhood language learning via the physical and social interaction of the infant with those around him or her, and that the capacity to use words, phrases and their meaning are acquired through shared referential ‘inference’ in pragmatic interactions. In order to create appropriate conditions for language learning by a humanoid robot, it would therefore be necessary to expose the robot to similar physical and social contexts. However in the early stages of language learning it is estimated that a 2-year-old child can be exposed to as many as 7,000 utterances per day in varied contextual situations. In this paper we report on the issues behind and the design of our currently ongoing and forthcoming experiments aimed to allow a robot to carry out language learning in a manner analogous to that in early child development and which effectively ‘short cuts’ holophrase learning. Two approaches are used: (1) simulated babbling through mechanisms which will yield basic word or holophrase structures and (2) a scenario for interaction between a human and the humanoid robot where shared ‘intentional’ referencing and the associations between physical, visual and speech modalities can be experienced by the robot. The output of these experiments, combined to yield word or holophrase structures grounded in the robot's own actions and modalities, would provide scaffolding for further proto-grammatical usage-based learning. This requires interaction with the physical and social environment involving human feedback to bootstrap developing linguistic competencies. These structures would then form the basis for further studies on language acquisition, including the emergence of negation and more complex grammar.