Gaze and Interaction

Recently, while taking care of my parents’ dog (see Figure 1 below), I observed an interesting phenomenon: whenever Sally (the dog) was thirsty, she would walk over to her empty water bowl, peer into it, then stare pointedly back at me, as if to say: what gives?

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I refilled the water bowl and she lapped it up eagerly. It struck me that this was Sally’s way of “requesting” water. No language was involved, but she successfully communicated her desire (“more water”) through an action[1], and I interpreted this action correctly and acted accordingly (filling the water bowl).

So how does this work?

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Discovering systematicity (Arbitrariness in language, pt. 3)

Language is mostly arbitrary, but there are patterns of systematicity both within and across languages. As discussed previously, arbitrariness and systematicity seem to play unique roles in improving both the learnability and communicative utility of a language.

So how can we, as researchers, quantify the degree of arbitrariness and systematicity in a language? And how can we discover these trends automatically?

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