On the Relationship between Symbolic and Neural Computation

Whitney Tabor and Dalia Terhesiu

There is a need to clarify the relationship between traditional symbolic computation and neural network computation. We suggest that traditional context-free grammars are best understood as a special case of neural network computation; the special case derives its power from the presence of certain kinds of symmetries in the weight values. We describe a simple class of stochastic neural networks, Stochastic Linear Dynamical Automata (SLDAs), define Lyapunov Exponents for these networks, and show that they exhibit a significant range of dynamical behaviors---contractive and chaotic, with context free grammars at the boundary between these regimes. Placing context-free languages in this more general context has allowed us, in previous work, to make headway on the challenging problem of designing neural mechanisms that can learn them.


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