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The Linguistic Review

Editor-in-Chief: van der Hulst, Harry

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Volume 22, Issue 2-4


Psycholinguistics, formal grammars, and cognitive science

Fernanda Ferreira
Published Online: 2005-12-06 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlir.2005.22.2-4.365


In the 1980s, Charles Clifton referred to a “psycholinguistic renaissance” in cognitive science. During that time, there was almost unanimous agreement that any self-respecting psycholinguist would make sure to keep abreast of major developments in generative grammar, because a competence model was essential, and the linguistic theory was the proper description of that competence. But today, many psycholinguists are disenchanted with generative grammar. One reason is that the Minimalist Program is difficult to adapt to processing models. Another is that generative theories appear to rest on a weak empirical foundation, due to the reliance on informally gathered grammaticality judgments. What can be done to remedy the situation? First, formal linguists might follow Ray Jackendoff’s recent suggestion that they connect their work more closely to research in the rest of cognitive science. Second, syntactic theory should develop a better methodology for collecting data about whether a sentence is good or bad. A set of standards for creating examples, testing them on individuals, analyzing the results, and reporting findings in published work should be established. If these two ideas were considered, linguistic developments might once again be relevant to the psycholinguistic enterprise.

About the article

Published Online: 2005-12-06

Published in Print: 2005-12-12

Citation Information: The Linguistic Review, Volume 22, Issue 2-4, Pages 365–380, ISSN (Online) 1613-3676, ISSN (Print) 0167-6318, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlir.2005.22.2-4.365.

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