Skip to Main Content
A robot that can communicate with humans using natural language will have to acquire a grammatical framework. This paper analyses some crucial underlying mechanisms that are needed in the construction of such a framework. The work is inspired by language acquisition in infants, but it also draws on the emergence of language in evolutionary time and in ontogenic (developmental) time. It focuses on issues arising from the use of real language with all its evolutionary baggage, in contrast to an artificial communication system, and describes approaches to addressing these issues. We can deconstruct grammar to derive underlying primitive mechanisms, including serial processing, segmentation, categorization, compositionality, and forward planning. Implementing these mechanisms are necessary preparatory steps to reconstruct a working syntactic/semantic/pragmatic processor which can handle real language. An overview is given of our own initial experiments in which a robot acquires some basic linguistic capacity via interacting with a human.