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16 - Using convergent evidence from psycholinguistics and usage

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2014

Marilyn Ford
Affiliation:
School of Information and Communication Technology, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia
Joan Bresnan
Affiliation:
Department of Linguistics, Stanford University, USA
Manfred Krug
Affiliation:
Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, Germany
Julia Schlüter
Affiliation:
Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg, Germany
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Summary

Introduction

It is becoming increasingly accepted that speakers have richer knowledge of linguistic constructions than the knowledge captured by their categorical judgments of grammaticality. Speakers have reactions to linguistic expressions that are more fine-grained than can be captured by a categorical yes – no response or even by a system allowing responses like good, ?, ??, * and ** (Bard, Robertson and Sorace 1996; Bresnan 2007; Bresnan et al. 2007; Featherston 2007a; Gilquin and Gries 2009; Bresnan and Ford 2010; see Hoffmann, Chapter 5, this volume). Moreover, expressions that linguists have sometimes categorized as ‘ungrammatical’ have been found to be accepted by people (Wasow and Arnold 2005; Bresnan 2007) or found to be used by speakers and to sound good compared to the examples contrived by linguists (Stefanowitsch 2007; Bresnan and Nikitina 2009). Many researchers today thus see the need for placing less emphasis on linguists’ judgments of grammaticality and more emphasis on usage and experimental data, procedures that would be in line with Labov’s (1975) call for the use of convergent evidence and a recognition of the inconsistency of intuitions about constructed examples typically used by linguists (see Rosenbach, Chapter 15, this volume).

When judgments along a broad continuum of acceptability are acknowledged, rather than being denied, ignored, or underestimated, a potentially rich set of data about people’s knowledge of language becomes available. Moreover, researchers are not forced to make distinctions that have no firm basis. Clearly, though, embracing people’s fine-grained judgments about language requires new paradigms for collecting and analysing data. This chapter considers some of the methodological issues raised by a move away from a reliance on using categorical judgments to investigate linguistic knowledge. It will focus on one concrete case study, the dative alternation, using Australian and US participants. Speakers may produce a dative expression as a double object, as in showed the woman the ticket, with the recipient (the woman) preceding the theme (the ticket), or as a prepositional dative, as in showed the ticket to the woman, with the theme now preceding the recipient. Careful analysis of the occurrence of the two types of datives, judgments about datives, people’s processing of datives, and people’s choices in the production of datives, given a context, allows for a rich understanding of the basis for the choice of dative structure.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2013

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References

Arnold, Jennifer, Wasow, Thomas, Losongco, Anthony and Ginstrom, Ryan 2000. ‘Heaviness vs. newness: the effects of complexity and information structure on constituent ordering’, Language 76: 28–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baayen, R. Harald 2004. ‘Statistics in psycholinguistics: a critique of some current gold standards’, Mental Lexicon Working Papers 1: 1–45.Google Scholar
Bresnan, Joan and Ford, Marilyn 2010. ‘Predicting syntax: processing dative constructions in American and Australian varieties of English’, Language 86: 168–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rosenbach, Anette 2005. ‘Animacy versus weight as determinants of grammatical variation in English’, Language 81: 613–644.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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