Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(8):348–353, 2009. Paper doi abstract bibtex
A wide variety of organisms employ specialized mechanisms to cope with the demands of their environment. We suggest that the same is true for humans when acquiring artificial grammars, and at least some basic properties of natural grammars. We show that two basic mechanisms can explain many results in artificial grammar learning experiments, and different linguistic regularities ranging from stress assignment to interfaces between different components of grammar. One mechanism is sensitive to identity relations, whereas the other uses sequence edges as anchor points for extracting positional regularities. This piecemeal approach to mental computations helps to explain otherwise perplexing data, and offers a working hypothesis on how statistical and symbolic accounts of cognitive processes could be bridged.