Maxent Grammar Tool

A program hosted by Bruce Hayes, Dept. of Linguistics, UCLA

What's it for?

This software computes weights for constraint-based maxent grammars. It is meant to be a useful tool for linguists.

The key idea is that you make up a grammar consisting of constraints, then train it, using the program to match a corpus of data. The goal might be to model real-life language learning, or it might simply to make a grammar that's more accurate than one you could produce by hand.

To accomplish this, you need a mathematical expression of the grammar that:  (a) lets it make quantitative predictions; (b) reliably (provably) yields the optimum grammar compatible with the data. Maxent is, as far as I know, currently the only mathematical grammar framework for constraint-based theories that satisfy these two criteria.

What does it do?

Using an input file, you feed the program the following

The program computes, and writes to an output file:

Having trouble getting it to work?

1. Be sure you have an updated version of Java.  Java is available on the internet (as of 2013 from Oracle Corporation); Google "java runtime environment" and follow the most sensible link to download and install it.

2. A useful shortcut to surmounting installation problems is to download this file:  Unzip it, and move the resulting folder so that it is directly inside your c: folder (this will avoid any spaces in path names, which tend to mess up Java programs).  Then go into the new folder and click on RunMe.bat.

Where to learn about maxent

An explanation for the layman on how the weights get found:

Further explanation, with a nice application of the method in linguistics:


Maxent Grammar Tool originated in software prepared by Colin Wilson for purposes of writing Wilson (2006), cited above. The interface and user-friendliness improvements were carried out by Ben George under a grant from the UCLA Academic Senate Council on Research to Bruce Hayes.

Bruce Hayes's Home Page