Linguistics Experimental Linguistics
by
Barbara Hemforth
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 June 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0112

Introduction

Experimental linguistics is about studying theories of linguistic representations based on quantitative evidence. This evidence can be experimental in its strict sense or derived from text corpora. In any case, the validity of the hypotheses has to be tested using inferential statistics in order to draw general conclusions from a random sample of participants or linguistic expressions, or both. While an experimental approach has been more or less standard in phonetics, and a little more recently in phonology, it is now proving to be more and more useful in morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Experimental linguistics evidently overlaps strongly with psycholinguistics in approaching linguistic phenomena with experimental methods, and a considerable amount of the research that has been published in psycholinguistics is central to the research questions expressed in experimental linguistics. There is however a difference with respect to the major research perspective: psycholinguistics focuses on general principles of processing, and general cognitive mechanisms such as working memory constraints or executive functions play an important role. Experimental linguistics is mostly concerned with linguistic representation and with the constraints, which license variations of linguistic expressions. Whether or not this is a useful distinction is the basis for some debate in the framework of performance grammars. A substantial relation to quantitative linguistics can also be observed, in that testing of mathematically precise models with large-scale corpora or psychological experiments both are central to experimental linguistics. While quantitative work has been at the heart of experimental phonetics for more than seventy years, it took at least twenty more years to start thinking of experimental confirmation of linguistic hypotheses in Experimental Syntax. Experimental linguistics finds some of its roots in research on the “psychological reality of grammar,” which started in the 1960s. Important background for experimental linguistics can also be found in the development of performance-oriented grammars based on variants of the strong competence hypothesis. Research methods specially adapted to experimental linguistics have been developed and refined in recent years, thus overcoming some of the obstacles for using data-intensive approaches to complex linguistic questions. There is evidently some debate on the question of in how far empirical evidence beyond the intuition of well-trained linguists is necessary and useful for the development of linguistic theories. In the end, the debate amounts to a question posed by Jerry Fodor in 1981: What is it for a linguistic theory to be true of the speakers of a language? Or more concretely: Do experiments or large-scale corpus analyses enhance the reliability of linguistic theories?

General Overviews

Experimental approaches have been proposed for different subfields of linguistics, with a very long tradition in experimental phonetics and phonology and a more recent one in experimental (morpho-)syntax/semantics/pragmatics. Since Experimental Phonetics and Phonology is mostly covered in separate Oxford Bibliographies articles on Phonology, Acoustic Phonetics, and Articulatory Phonetics, only some basic foundational work is covered here. Most of what will be presented concentrates on the more recent developments in (morpho-)syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Although there is no textbook on experimental linguistics published to date, several edited volumes give overviews of the role of experimental research in the different subfields of linguistics. These volumes are particularly interesting for researchers looking for applications of the experimental approach in general. Eddington 2009 is probably closest to an introduction to the field that can easily be used in advanced classes. A variety of research methods as well as their relevance for research questions from different areas in linguistics are discussed, without demanding too much general knowledge of the respective subfield. Kepser and Reis 2005 includes papers that are often more oriented to concrete research questions. They do, however, all address the central question of which kinds of data are useful and needed for linguistic theories. Some of the chapters can be very useful for advanced courses on experimental linguistics. Prideaux 1979 has mainly been included for historical reasons, although it is somewhat less coherent than the two other volumes. It certainly shows that the relevance of the experimental approach for linguistics has been under discussion for quite a while now, even beyond experimental phonetics.

  • Eddington, David, ed. 2009. Quantitative and Experimental Linguistics. Munich: Lincom.

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    The different chapters in this volume give an introduction to research methods and models in experimental linguistics for different linguistic domains. The preface by David Eddington provides an insightful line of argumentation on linguistic and psychological realities.

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    • Kepser, Stephan, and Marga Reis. 2005. Linguistic evidence: Empirical, theoretical, and computational perspectives. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

      DOI: 10.1515/9783110197549Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This volume presents a selection of papers from a workshop on experimental linguistics held in Tübingen in 2004. The authors share the sentiment that a variety of data sources, from introspection to neurolinguistic data, is central to linguistic theory building. A majority of the papers discuss concrete research questions, mostly on morphology, syntax, or semantics, combining different data types.

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      • Prideaux, Gary Dean, ed. 1979. Perspectives in Experimental Linguistics: Papers from the University of Alberta Conference on Experimental Linguistics, Edmonton, 13–14 Oct. 1978. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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        This volume shows that the general goal of experimental linguistics, widening the database for theoretical linguistics, is not as recent as some may think.

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        Journals

        Unfortunately, there are no journals specially designated to experimental linguistics. Relevant papers can regularly be found in journals generally publishing psycholinguistic work. Cognition, Language and Cognitive Processes, and the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research most strongly integrate theories of language processing and representation with empirical data, whereas the Journal of Memory and Language has a more psychological perspective. Linguistics, Lingua, Language, and Cognitive Linguistics regularly publish experimental papers. The Frontiers series offers a new outlet for research in general, with increasing impact on the different fields. The journal of greatest interest for experimental linguistics is Frontiers in the Language Sciences. For empirical work on corpora, Corpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory is of great interest. This journal is obviously strongly oriented toward corpus analyses, but it encourages papers combining corpus data with experimental data.

        Experimental Phonetics and Phonology

        The experimental approach has a very long tradition in experimental phonetics, and also in laboratory phonology, as can be seen from the following citations, starting with de Groot 1928. In particular, the theoretical considerations concerning the integration of empirical evidence and linguistic theories are of central relevance to experimental linguistics in general. de Groot 1928, Fry 1954, and Cohen 1962 all state the importance of collecting acoustic and psychophysiological data. Those data, however, are only of relevance in the context of linguistic abstractions, taking into account their semantic or even psychological functions. The arguments put forward for experimental phonetics by these authors play a comparable role for current discussions on experimental syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Kingston and Beckman 1990, as well as the introductory paper Pierrehumbert, et al. 2000, translates the arguments from experimental phonetics to experimental phonology. The literature on experimental phonetics and phonology is surely the most extensive one across all linguistic domains, and it needs to be covered separately. Only papers and volumes of more general interest are cited here. Researchers and students particularly interested in phonetics and phonology are invited to consult the separate Oxford Bibliographies article on Phonetics for a much more detailed overview.

        • Cohen, Antonie. 1962. On the value of experimental phonetics for the linguist. Lingua 11:67–74.

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          Along with Fry 1954, this paper shows a long-lasting debate on the role of experimental phonetics for linguistics that helped to put experimental linguistics into a more historical perspective.

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          • de Groot, A. W. 1928. Proposition 2: Explanatory memorandum. In Actes du Premier Congres International de Linguistes. Edited by C. de Boer, Jac van Ginneken, and A. G. van Hamel, 6–9. Leiden, The Netherlands: Sijthoff.

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            The central challenge of experimental phonetics was stated by de Groot at the first International Congress of Linguistics. Many of the critical arguments he proposes can easily be applied to experimental linguistics in general. Although the data obtained in experiments are often physiological or physical, their relevance for linguistics stems from their relation with semantic functions.

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            • Fry, Dennis B. 1954. The experimental study of speech. Nature 173:844–846.

              DOI: 10.1038/173844a0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              One of the most important aspects of Fry’s work for experimental linguistics in general is his attempt to integrate laboratory experimentation, with its focus on acoustic cues with the linguistic perspective, insisting that the robustness of human speech comprehension under conditions of noise and distortion calls for abstract representations beyond acoustic cues.

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              • Kingston John, and Mary E. Beckman, eds. 1990. Papers in laboratory phonology I: Between the grammar and physics of speech. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627736Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                The Papers in Laboratory Phonology series has published highly relevant research papers on laboratory phonology since 1990. The series is indispensable for experts and advanced graduate students.

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                • Pierrehumbert, Janet, Mary E. Beckman, and D. Robert Ladd. 2000. Conceptual foundations of phonology as a laboratory science. In Phonological knowledge: Conceptual and empirical issues. Edited by Noel Burton-Roberts, Philip Carr, and Gerard Docherty, 273–304. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                  This paper provides a highly accessible introduction to the theoretical perspective taken in experimental phonology as a natural science with scientific foundations, including sophisticated experimental methodology.

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                  Experimental Syntax

                  The history of experimental syntax may be regarded as much more recent than that of experimental phonetics and phonology. It does, however, go back at least to the early 1970s with work on the psychological reality of grammar. Some of the most relevant work for current approaches to experimental syntax is mentioned here, although many of the books and papers cited in later subchapters directly relate to experimental syntax. Cowart 1997 is at the same time an introduction to experimental syntax and to research methods, particularly with respect to acceptability judgments. Cowart 1997 provides some background on how to design an experiment, but it is also a more practical introduction in how to run and analyze experiments. Whereas Cowart 1997 is useful as an introduction to the field, Featherston and Sternefeld 2007 and Featherston and Winkler 2009 present research papers, a selection of which would be suited for more advanced courses. The papers discuss the role of experimental syntax in linguistic theories, as well as examples for successful applications. Schütze 2011 discusses experimental techniques and stresses the importance of integrating a variety of empirical techniques. Although Featherston and Sternefeld 2007, Featherston and Winkler 2009, and Schütze 2011 are written from a generative perspective, most of the arguments they put forward are theory independent. A central question in syntax concerns language variation as well as linguistic universals. Experimental work is certainly playing a considerable role in language typology in general. It has, however, only more recently started to gain influence in experimental syntax, particularly with respect to word order phenomena. While some of this work is based on adults learning artificial grammars—such as Culbertson, et al. 2012, or the overview in Tily and Jaeger 2011—others, such as Langus and Nespor 2010, try to combine constraints from different cognitive systems in order to explain word order variation.

                  • Cowart, Wayne. 1997. Experimental Syntax: Applying objective methods to sentence judgments. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

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                    Wayne Cowart’s book was one of the first to provide an accessible introduction to research in experimental syntax, mostly based on acceptability judgments. It is recommended to researchers as well as to advanced graduate students.

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                    • Culbertson, Jennifer, Paul Smolensky, and Géraldine Legendre. 2012. Learning biases predict a word order universal. Cognition 122.3: 306–329.

                      DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2011.10.017Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      This paper offers an innovative approach for studying linguistic universals. Learning a variety of artificial grammars, adult speakers showed consistent biases for regular and harmonic word orders.

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                      • Featherston, Sam, and Wolfgang Sternefeld, eds. 2007. Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base. Series: Studies in Generative Grammar. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                        This volume comprises recent research from linguists integrating empirical methods as foundations of their (mostly syntactic) theoretical assumptions. Selected papers are very useful for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses.

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                        • Featherston, Sam, and Susanne Winkler, eds. 2009. The fruits of empirical linguistics. 2 vols. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

                          DOI: 10.1515/9783110216141Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          The papers in these two volumes cover arguments for and against an empirical approach, mostly from a generative perspective.

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                          • Langus, Alan, and Marina Nespor. 2010. Cognitive systems struggling for word order. Cognitive Psychology 60.4: 291–318.

                            DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2010.01.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            The authors try to explain word order variation based on the interaction of cognitive systems used for communication (mainly syntax and gestures), as seen through a series of behavioral experiments.

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                            • Schütze, Carson. 2011. Linguistic evidence and grammatical theory. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science 2.2: 206–221.

                              DOI: 10.1002/wcs.102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              This article argues for the integration of corpus data, judgment data, and other experimental data into the linguist’s toolbox, specifically for the goals of generative grammars. Although most examples are taken from syntax, the line of argumentation can easily be translated to other domains.

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                              • Tily, Harry, and T. Florian Jaeger. 2011. Complementing quantitative typology with behavioral approaches: Evidence for typological universals. Linguistic Typology 15.2: 479–490.

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                                Tily and Jaeger provide a very useful introduction into artificial language learning and iterated artificial language learning paradigms, showing how these fairly recent behavioral approaches can help overcome the sparse data problem in quantitative typology.

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                                Experimental Pragmatics

                                Topics such as information structure, speech acts, irony, and metaphors have been studied in psycholinguistics for quite a while. Only more recently, however, has experimental work been integrated into theoretical theories of pragmatics more systematically. A detailed introduction into experimental pragmatics can be found in Noveck and Sperber 2004. For introductory courses with the purpose of giving an overview of experimental linguistics, the shorter version from Trends in Cognitive Science (Noveck and Reboul 2008) may be more useful. More specific topics are addressed in Breheny, et al. 2006; Heller, et al. 2008; Huang and Snedeker 2009; and Noveck and Posada 2003—which use different online techniques such as self-paced reading times, eye-tracking, and event-related potentials to study scalar implicatures. All these papers can be very useful for a demonstration of a larger variety of experimental techniques in experimental linguistics. Frank and Goodman 2012 is a very short and very comprehensive introduction to a model of referential communication games predicting judgments in experimental studies.

                                • Breheny, Richard, Napoleon Katsos, and John Williams. 2006. Are generalised scalar implicatures generated by default? An online investigation into the role of context in generating pragmatic inferences. Cognition 100.3: 434–463.

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                                  This paper and Noveck and Posada 2003 are particularly interesting because they apply sophisticated online methods to linguistic questions. Breheny and colleagues use self-paced reading to study the time course of the processing of scalar implicatures.

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                                  • Frank, Michael C., and Noah D. Goodman. 2012. Predicting pragmatic reasoning in language games. Science 336.6084 (25 May): 998.

                                    DOI: 10.1126/science.1218633Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    The authors model judgments about simple referential communication games, assuming that speakers attempt to be informative, and that listeners use Bayesian inference to recover speakers’ intended referents.

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                                    • Heller, Daphne, Daniel Grodner, and Michael K. Tanenhaus. 2008. The role of perspective in identifying domains of reference. Cognition 108.3: 831–836.

                                      DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2008.04.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      This paper investigates the role of common ground and privileged knowledge, using the same experimental paradigm as Huang and Snedeker 2009.

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                                      • Huang, Yi Ting, and Jesse Snedeker. 2009. Online interpretation of scalar quantifiers: Insight into the semantics-pragmatics interface. Cognitive Psychology 58.3: 376–415.

                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.cogpsych.2008.09.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        In a visual world eye-tracking experiment, Huang and Snedeker find delayed pragmatic processing similar to Noveck and Posada.

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                                        • Noveck, Ira A., and A. Posada. 2003. Characterizing the time course of an implicature: An evoked potentials study. Brain and Language 85.2: 203–210.

                                          DOI: 10.1016/S0093-934X(03)00053-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Event-related potentials are used in this paper to investigate which kinds of integration processes are at work and when they start working.

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                                          • Noveck, Ira A., and Anne Reboul. 2008. Experimental pragmatics: A Gricean turn in the study of language. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12.11: 425–431.

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                                            The authors apply the experimental approach to two exemplary phenomena—“scalar inference” and “reference resolution,” and extend it to other topics that fit into the paradigm known as “experimental pragmatics.” This paper can easily be proposed in courses for advanced students.

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                                            • Noveck, Ira A., and Dan Sperber. 2004. Experimental pragmatics. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

                                              DOI: 10.1057/9780230524125Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              This book provides a comprehensive introduction to a pragmatic approach to integrating models of language and meaning with experimental techniques. It is easily comprehensible for students in advanced courses in linguistics, cognitive science, psychology, and philosophy.

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                                              Research Methods

                                              A series of more or less easily accessible textbooks has been published since 2005. Some of these are easily accessible for advanced undergraduates, whereas others require some background knowledge. The books included here provide very general introductions to empirical approaches in linguistics, with different levels of difficulty. Rasinger 2008 and Dornyei 2007 are very accessible introductions to experimental design and simple statistical analyses, and thus accessible even for advanced undergraduates. Baayen 2008, Johnson 2008, and Gries 2009 introduce statistical methods and are equally suited for corpus analyses or experimental research. All three demand some background in statistics as well as some knowledge of the functional language R. Baayen, et al. 2008 and Jaeger 2008 provide very basic and widely cited critiques of the widespread use of analyses of variance in data analysis in experiments. Baayen, et al. 2008 shows that mixed-effects regression analyses outperform analyses of variance (ANOVAs) in many cases, and Jaeger 2008 shows that ANOVAs can lead to spurious results for categorical data (such as yes-no questions, forced choice tasks, etc.).

                                              • Baayen, R. H. 2008. Analyzing linguistic data: A practical introduction to statistics using R. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511801686Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                This textbook does not cover experimental design. It focuses on statistical analysis only, giving at the same time specific training in using the statistics software R for linguistic research. Basic knowledge of inferential statistics and of the functional language R is strongly recommended before starting to read the book. It is certainly not accessible for every advanced undergraduate student. It is, however, essential for modern research in experimental linguistics.

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                                                • Baayen, R. H., D. J. Davidson, and D. M. Bates. 2008. Mixed-effects modeling with crossed random effects for subjects and items. Journal of Memory and Language 59.4: 390–412.

                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2007.12.005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  This paper explains in some detail mixed-effects models for the analysis of repeated measurement data with subjects and items as crossed random effects. It is highly useful for advanced students since it provides a worked-out example of how to use recent software for mixed-effects modeling.

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                                                  • Dornyei, Zoltan. 2007. Research methods in applied linguistics: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                    Dornyei’s book is a very basic introduction. He proposes a mixture of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Despite its applied perspective, it is certainly very useful for advanced undergraduates.

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                                                    • Gries, Stefan Th. 2009. Statistics for linguistics with R: A practical introduction. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

                                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110216042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      This book is very useful for advanced individual users as well as for instructors as a course textbook because of a considerable number of data samples, “think breaks,” and exercises. Using it in combination with other introductions to R is recommended.

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                                                      • Jaeger, T. Florian. 2008. Categorical data analysis: Away from ANOVAs (transformation or not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 59.4: 434–446.

                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2007.11.007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        This paper shows the pitfalls of the use of analyses of variance for categorical data such as yes-no questions, forced choice decisions, syntactic priming, etc. The highly used ANOVAs can give rise to spurious results, which can be overcome by the use of mixed logit models.

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                                                        • Johnson, Keith. 2008. Quantitative methods in linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

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                                                          This is another excellent introduction to statistics in (socio-)linguistics. Although it gives an overview of a great number of statistical tests, it does not go into too much detail. The condensed presentation is very useful as an overview; it demands, however, additional more detailed readings.

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                                                          • Rasinger, Sebastian M. 2008. Quantitative research in linguistics: An introduction. Series: Research Methods in Linguistics. London: Continuum.

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                                                            Rasinger’s book is a very accessible introduction spanning the process from the design of easy experiments (questionnaires) to simple statistical analyses. Useful for advanced undergraduates with some knowledge of language but no knowledge of quantitative research methods.

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                                                            Specific Methods

                                                            Whereas the books in the main Research Methods section are more general introductions to experimental design or statistical analyses, the books and chapters included here focus on particular methods, such as acceptability judgments and magnitude estimations. The methods described are all fairly easy to use without the need of sophisticated machinery. Technically more demanding techniques, such as eye-tracking experiments, electroencephalograms (EEGs), and functional magnetic resonance imagery (FMRI) will not be discussed in this section. Judging the grammaticality or acceptability of utterances is a traditional task in linguistic research. It is therefore not surprising that in much of the work in experimental linguistics this task is adapted to well-controlled experimental stimuli and naïve participants. Schütze 1996 and Cowart 1997 (cited under Experimental Syntax) have surely prepared some of the ground for this kind of experiments. Grammaticality judgments can be either binary or graded, using rating scales. Bard, et al. 1996 and Featherston 2005 propose a more fine-grained but also more complex technique, which is based on magnitude estimations in psychophysics. They argue that this technique allows for more subtle distinctions than rating scales. In order to understand the relation of binary grammaticality judgments and graded judgments, Bader and Häussler 2010 directly compares speeded grammaticality judgments, magnitude estimations, and corpus data, showing high correlations between the different techniques. A general problem with all sorts of intuitive judgments made by linguistics experts or by naïve participants is that they are influenced by many factors beyond the actual well-formedness of a construction, such as working memory constraints attention, word length, word frequency, and many more. Bornkessel-Schlesewsky and Schlesewsky 2007 denies the usefulness of such judgments altogether and demands the application of more sophisticated and indirect techniques. Derwing and Almeida 2009 and Clahsen, et al. 1995 propose some such alternatives, which still remain fairly easy to realize. Each experimental technique involves particular tasks to be carried out by the participants. The quality of the data largely depends on how well the participants are able to fulfill the task requirements. Schütze 2005 discusses this problem in depth and provides examples of badly administered tasks. Schütze’s arguments are of very high value for researchers running their first experiments.

                                                            • Bader, Markus, and Jana Häussler. 2010. Toward a model of grammaticality judgments. Journal of Linguistics 46.2: 273–330.

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                                                              Bader and Häussler provide a theoretical account of speeded binary grammaticality judgments and how they relate to graded judgments as well as corpus data based on signal detection theory.

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                                                              • Bard, Ellen Gurman, Dan Robertson, and Antonella Sorace. 1996. Magnitude estimation of linguistic acceptability. Language 72.1: 32–68.

                                                                DOI: 10.2307/416793Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Magnitude estimations are a refined technique for acceptability judgments, which have been argued to be more fine-grained than rating scales, and thus more adapted to subtle differences in acceptability. The technique is based on Stanley S. Steven’s psychophysical power law, as expressed in his 1957 article “On the Psychophysical Law” (Psychological Review 64.3: 153–181).

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                                                                • Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, Ina, and Matthias Schlesewsky. 2007. The wolf in sheep’s clothing: Against a new judgement-driven imperialism. Theoretical Linguistics 33.3: 319–333.

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                                                                  Given that offline acceptability judgments experiments, which are often used in experimental linguistics, may be influenced by a variety of cognitive factors, the authors of this paper strongly argue that they are no more useful than intuitive judgments by individual linguists (compared to more sophisticated online evidence as it can be obtained in experiments using electroencephalography or eye-tracking).

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                                                                  • Clahsen, Harald, Upyong Hong, and Ingrid Sonnenstuhl-Henning. 1995. Grammatical constraints in syntactic processing: Sentence-matching experiments on German. Linguistic Review 12.1: 5–33.

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                                                                    Sentence-matching is an alternative method that can has been used successfully to look into grammatical constraints. This paper shows some possible applications.

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                                                                    • Derwing, Bruce L., and Roberto G. de Almeida. 2009. Non-chronometric experiments in linguistics. In Quantitative and Experimental Linguistics. Edited by D. Eddington, 234–283. Munich: Lincom.

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                                                                      While acceptability judgments are probably the methods coming to mind most easily for linguistic research, there are other nonchronometric techniques such as recall, recognition, and classification that can be used without heavy equipment, some of which are introduced in this paper.

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                                                                      • Featherston, Sam. 2005. Magnitude estimation and what it can do for your syntax: Some wh-constraints in German. Lingua 115.11: 1525–1550.

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                                                                        Featherston applies magnitude estimations to wh-constraints in German. He argues that the results are evidence for violable constraints.

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                                                                        • Schütze, Carson T. 1996. The empirical base of linguistics: Grammaticality judgments and linguistic methodology. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                          This book has unfortunately recently gone out of print. It is still accessible in libraries and directly from the author. It is certainly one of the milestones in modern experimental syntax.

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                                                                          • Schütze, Carson T. 2005. Thinking about what we are asking speakers to do. In Linguistic evidence: Empirical, theoretical, and computational perspectives. Edited by Stephan Kepser and Marga Reis, 457–485. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                            Many experiments ask participants to judge the grammaticality or complexity of linguistic items. Schütze gives a critical account of whether the tasks we employ are always possible to be carried out by the participants of our experiments.

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                                                                            Overcoming Logistic Problems of Experimentation

                                                                            A reason for not running experiments with a number of naïve participants is that setting up an experiment and finding participants can often be very cumbersome. Gibson, et al. 2011 shows ways how to overcome these problems by running experiments on the Internet. Myers 2007 and Drummond 2009 offer free software that helps setting up experiments more easily. Finally, Myers 2009 shows how logistic obstacles can be reduced by applying adequate inferential statistics that work with small samples.

                                                                            The Psychological Reality of Grammar

                                                                            Linguistic theories on grammar describe the properties of well-formed constructions in a given language or for language in general. These theories may or may not correspond to the linguistic knowledge implemented in the human brain. One of the fundamental assumptions on grammar, proposed in Chomsky 1972, is that a reasonable model of language use has to incorporate generative grammar as a model of the knowledge of language of human speakers. For experimental linguistics, two basic questions can be derived from this proposal: (1) Is linguistics really about mental representations? And, if so, (2) are these mental representations accessible by empirical observations? A positive response to the first question does not necessarily imply the same response to the second, since much of the linguistic knowledge is implicit and not easy to observe directly. Fodor 1981 argues that linguistic intuitions are deduced from mental representations, and thus from psychological states, a position that is strongly disputed in Devitt 2006. McDonald 2009 presents a very accessible overview of the discussion. However, a positive answer to the first question implies other questions; namely, whether a given linguistic theory can possibly be represented in the human mind, whether it can be learned, and whether it can be used for language processing? Experimental linguistics is thus the endeavor of finding out which hypotheses derived from linguistic theories can be psychologically realistic. Fodor, et al. 1974 directly tests predictions from the derivational theory of complexity, with success for major syntactic constituents but much less success for linguistic transformations. The psychological reality of syntactic constituents is also compatible with experiments presented in Levelt 1970 using different experimental techniques. Although no behavioral evidence was established for linguistic transformations, they were mostly not considered as psychologically nonreal but possibly as nonaccessible by experimental approaches applied at the time. Halle, et al. 1978 takes the necessity for the psychological reality of grammars more seriously and proposes alternative grammars, such as augmented transition networks or more lexicalized grammars, which the authors argued to be more compatible with human processing data.

                                                                            • Chomsky, Noam. 1972. Language and mind. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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                                                                              This series of lectures is essential for the highly disputed view of linguistics as a branch of cognitive psychology. According to this view, the subject of linguistic studies should be the internalized cognitive capacity allowing humans to generate linguistic tokens. Although Chomsky certainly is far from being an experimentalist, this approach is highly relevant for experimental linguistics beyond generative grammars.

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                                                                              • Devitt, Michael. 2006. Ignorance of language. Oxford: Clarendon.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1093/0199250960.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                The “linguistics as psychology” hypothesis is strongly challenged by Michael Devitt. He argues that the subject of linguistic studies is linguistic reality and not mental representations. His reflections bear directly on the usefulness of experimental linguistics.

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                                                                                • Fodor, Jerry. 1981. Some notes on what linguistics is about. In Readings in the philosophy of psychology. Vol. 2. Edited by Ned Block, 197–207. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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                                                                                  Fodor argues that linguistic intuitions are based on the representation of linguistic rules in the mind; that is, on the competence of the human speaker. Consequently, linguistics is about psychological states of the mind. This paper is most useful for researchers interested in the philosophical background of the “linguistics as psychology” hypothesis.

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                                                                                  • Fodor, Jerry, Thomas Bever, and Merrill Garrett. 1974. The psychology of language: An introduction to psycholinguistics and generative grammar. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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                                                                                    Fodor, Bever, and Garrett present evidence for the psychological reality of phrase structure, whereas the psychological reality of transformations, as proposed in the derivational theory of complexity, turns out to be less easy to establish. Derivations proposed at the time were simpler and easier to be tested experimentally than transformations in current derivational theories, and thus easier to falsify.

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                                                                                    • Halle, Morris, Joan Bresnan, and George A. Miller, eds. 1978. Linguistic theory and psychological reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                      This is a highly influential collection of papers from a symposium on “New Approaches to a Realistic Model of Language” held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1976. Although the collection does not include the most recent models, some of the chapters are highly useful even for advanced undergraduate courses.

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                                                                                      • Levelt, Willem J. M. 1970. Hierarchical chunking in sentence processing. Perception & Psychophysics 8.2: 99–103.

                                                                                        DOI: 10.3758/BF03210182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Levelt uses cohesion judgments in order to derive sentence structures, which largely correspond to major syntactic constituents as stipulated in linguistic theories of grammar.

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                                                                                        • McDonald, Fritz J. 2009. Linguistics, psychology, and the ontology of language. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 9.3: 291–301.

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                                                                                          MacDonald discusses the idea of linguistics as a subfield of cognitive psychology from a philosophical perspective in a fairly accessible way.

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                                                                                          The Strong Competence Hypothesis

                                                                                          Although the linguistic faculty has been construed as part of the human’s cognitive system in generative grammars, an important distinction has been proposed for the usage of language, on the one hand, and linguistic theory, on the other. Linguistic theory is concerned with human competence for language, abstracting away from everyday usage, or actual performance. The latter, being partially determined by ephemeral (lack of attention, motivation, etc.) or systematic general cognitive factors (e.g., working memory constraints) may blur the picture, and thus not give access to the underlying linguistic structure. Whereas linguistic theory may thus inform psycholinguistics about relevant concepts for investigation, processing data do not constrain theories of language. Experimental linguistics, on the other hand, has the goal of uncovering linguistic structure based on empirical evidence, such as human performance. Proponents of the so-called Strong Competence Hypotheses deviated strongly from this perspective in proposing that grammars must be constructed such that rules of the grammar more or less directly correspond to processing steps. Bresnan and Kaplan 1982 construes an explanatory model of human language performance, which needs to include a theoretically justified representation of the speaker’s linguistic knowledge. For the model to be scientifically valid it has to be possible to derive falsifiable empirical predictions. Ford, et al. 1982 presents a possible way of realizing a processing model that directly incorporates a theory of grammar (lexical functional grammar, in this case), Steedman 1989 describes how certain categorical grammars can be compatible with the strong competence hypothesis. Various current theories of grammar claim to be performance compatible. Sag and Wasow 2011 is an excellent and very useful overview. Contrary to traditional accounts, Gahl and Garnsey 2004 argues that in order to explain the variation of pronunciation, syntactic probabilities need to be part of the linguistic knowledge. This view is strongly contested in Newmeyer 2006, which claims that generalizations about usage should lie outside of the grammar system. This discussion, including the reply in Gahl and Garnsey 2006, can be very useful for advanced courses on experimental linguistics. Prediction of performance-compatible grammars should be directly testable in corpora or experiments. However, not every processing difficulty is necessarily a reflection of the violation of grammatical constraints. General cognitive constraints are interacting with linguistic constraints in performance data. Hofmeister, et al. 2013 tries to disentangle (un)grammaticality and processing difficulty based on a comparison of grammaticality judgments and processing data. The authors show that some phenomena that are typically considered as part of the grammar may at least partly be explained by processing complexity.

                                                                                          • Bresnan, Joan, and Ronald M. Kaplan. 1982. Introduction: Grammars as mental representations of language. In The mental representation of grammatical relations. Edited by Joan Bresnan, i–lii. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                            Bresnan and Kaplan introduce the strong competence hypothesis in the introduction to this volume. The discussion of this hypothesis is a necessity in any course on experimental linguistics.

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                                                                                            • Ford, Marilyn, Joan Bresnan, and Ronald M. Kaplan. 1982. A competence-based theory of syntactic closure. In The mental representation of grammatical relations. Edited by Joan W. Bresnan, 727–796. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                              In case of syntactic ambiguities, the human sentence processing principle systematically chooses one of the possible interpretations very rapidly. Ford, Bresnan, and Kaplan give an explanation of these preferences based on the interaction of syntactic rules, lexical information, and processing principles. Principles of lexical functional grammar are directly incorporated in the processing model following the claims of the strong competence hypothesis.

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                                                                                              • Gahl, Susanne, and Susan Garnsey. 2004. Knowledge of grammar, knowledge of usage: Syntactic probabilities affect pronunciation variation. Language 80.4: 748–775.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1353/lan.2004.0185Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                This is a highly important paper in that it provides a new view of what competence grammars should look like. Based on data on pronunciation variation, the authors argue that syntactic probabilities need to be part of the knowledge of grammar.

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                                                                                                • Gahl, Susanne, and Susan Garnsey. 2006. Knowledge of grammar includes knowledge of syntactic probabilities. Language 82.2: 405–410.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1353/lan.2006.0089Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This paper is Gahl and Garnsey’s reply to Newmeyer’s critique of Gahl and Garnsey 2004 (see Newmeyer 2006).

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                                                                                                  • Hofmeister, Philip, T. Florian Jaeger, Inbal Arnon, Ivan A. Sag, and Neal Snider. 2013. The source ambiguity problem: Distinguishing the effects of grammar and processing on acceptability judgments. Language and Cognitive Processes 28.1–2: 48–87.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1080/01690965.2011.572401Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Whereas experimental linguistics is mostly concerned with representational issues, acceptability judgments can reflect processing difficulty instead of grammaticality. This paper cleverly discusses this problem comparing acceptability judgments and self-pace reading. Available online only, by subscription or purchase.

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                                                                                                    • Newmeyer, Frederick J. 2006. On Gahl and Garnsey on grammar and usage. Language 82.2: 399–404.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1353/lan.2006.0100Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This critique of Gahl and Garnsey 2004, as well as their reply (in Gahl and Garnsey 2006), can be recommended as readings in courses for advanced students. They allow a discussion of what should be considered as part of the linguistic competence of a speaker.

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                                                                                                      • Sag, Ivan A., and Wasow Thomas. 2011. Performance-compatible competence grammar. In Non-transformational syntax: Formal and explicit models of grammar. Edited by Robert Borsley and Kersti Börjars. 359–377. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1002/9781444395037Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        In this chapter, Sag and Wasow argue for grammars that can serve as a basis for competence grammars, and that are informed by empirical evidence on linguistic performance. The chapter provides a very good overview of the interaction of linguistic theory and experimental evidence from a nontransformational perspective.

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                                                                                                        • Steedman, Mark J. 1989. Grammar, interpretation, and processing from the lexicon. In Lexical representation and process. Edited by William Marslen-Wilson, 463–504. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                                          Steedman argues that grammars have to provide semantically interpretable constituents incrementally compatible with the way human language comprehension proceeds. Grammars have to serve semantic interpretation. Certain combinatory grammars fulfill this demand.

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                                                                                                          Corpus Studies and Psycholinguistic Experiments

                                                                                                          Experimental linguistics includes strictly experimental testing of hypotheses as well as testing hypotheses on linguistic corpora. Critically, in both cases, inferential statistics are applied in order to generalize from samples to populations and to control for intercorrelations of variables. Sophisticated statistical models can be used to determine relative weights of factors in the usage of language. Gries 2009 provides an excellent introduction into corpus analyses using R. The combination of corpus analyses and experimental work is highly useful since systematic intercorrelations in natural corpora as well as low frequencies of particular constructions sometimes do not allow the specific roles of different factors to be identified. Research on constituent ordering (e.g., Gries 2003; Bresnan, et al. 2007; and Bresnan 2007) has been a milestone for this approach and is thus indispensable for a thorough understanding of modern experimental linguistics. One of the outcomes of this work is the view that linguistic constraints are graded and can be violated, as shown in Bresnan and Nikitina 2009 and Sorace and Keller 2005. Although much of this research is done in the context of usage-based grammars, there is no necessary link between the empirical approach and a specific theoretical perspective. Whereas most of the corpus work concerns the production side of language processing, more recently eye-tracking corpora have been made available, providing detailed reading measures for natural corpora. Based on the Dundee corpus (Kennedy 2003), Demberg and Keller 2008 shows how these corpora combine corpus research and sophisticated experimental techniques, thus allowing for testing the processing of complex syntactic models.

                                                                                                          • Bresnan, Joan. 2007. Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base. Edited by Sam Featherston and Wolfgang Sternefeld, 75–96. Studies in Generative Grammar 96. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                                            This paper presents experimental work, confirming that the interaction of multiple constraints determined in large-scale corpora predict acceptability judgments of naïve participants.

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                                                                                                            • Bresnan, Joan, Anna Cueni, Tatiana Nikitina, and R. Harald Baayen. 2007. Predicting the dative alternation. In Cognitive foundations of interpretation. Edited by Gerlof Boume, Irene Krämer, and Joost Zwarts, 69–94. Amsterdam: Royal Netherlands Academy of Science.

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                                                                                                              Bresnan and colleagues present an analysis of factors influencing the usage of different constituent orderings (in particular for dative alternations, as in “He gave the boy the car” versus “He gave the car to the boy”) as a case study, showing how the use of sophisticated statistical models allows us to use large-scale corpora in order to inform theories of grammar. The statistical approach allows investigating the effects of multiple conflicting formal, semantic, and contextual constraints.

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                                                                                                              • Bresnan, Joan, and Tatiana Nikitina. 2009. The gradience of the dative alternation. In Reality exploration and discovery: Pattern interaction in language and life. Edited by Linda Uyechi and Lian-Hee Wee, 161–184. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.

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                                                                                                                Based on corpus data, Bresnan and Nikitina present evidence of the variability of strong as well as weak constraints for dative alternations.

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                                                                                                                • Demberg, Vera, and Frank Keller. 2008. Data from eye-tracking corpora as evidence for theories of syntactic processing complexity. Cognition 109.2: 193–210.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2008.07.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Demberg and Keller show a way of combining the advantages of working with naturally occurring language (i.e., not linguistic material specifically constructed for experiments) with sophisticated experimental techniques by testing syntactic predictions using reading time data from the Dundee corpus (see Kennedy 2003).

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                                                                                                                  • Gries, Stefan Th. 2003. Towards a corpus-based identification of prototypical instances of constructions. Annual Review of Cognitive Linguistics 1:1–27.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1075/arcl.1.02griSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    This paper provides an excellent combination of a multifactorial approach to the dative alternation and an experimental validation.

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                                                                                                                    • Gries, Stefan Th. 2009. Quantitative corpus linguistics with R: A practical introduction. London and New York: Routledge.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1515/9783110216042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      Generalizing from corpus analyses demands a strong background in inferential statistics. Gries provides an introduction to inferential techniques using the functional language R, which is accessible for advanced students with some background in statistics.

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                                                                                                                      • Kennedy, Alan. 2003. The Dundee corpus. CD-ROM. Dundee, UK: School of Psychology, Univ. of Dundee.

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                                                                                                                        This corpus provides eye-tracking data from French and English readers working through extended passages of text taken from newspaper articles.

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                                                                                                                        • Sorace, Antonella, and Frank Keller. 2005. Gradience in linguistic data. Lingua 115.11: 1497–1524.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1016/j.lingua.2004.07.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Sorace and Keller provide an overview of experimental data on degrees of grammaticality. From the experimental data, they come to the conclusion that constraints fall into two categories: strong and soft constraints. Within each of these categories some variability can be established.

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                                                                                                                          The Relevance of Quantitative Methods in Syntax and Semantics Research

                                                                                                                          Experimental linguists are convinced that traditional methods in linguistics are insufficient, for various reasons. There is considerable debate on whether the data obtained by linguistic judgments from experts in the respective domain (linguists) are really as unreliable as has been argued, for example, in Levelt 1972. Levelt argues, similar to Labov 1996, that intuitive data, be they from expert linguists or from naïve participants, are behavioral data, which are subject to a multitude of factors and thus in no way are direct windows to the underlying mental representations. One argument that has been put forward is that linguistic experts do not always agree on the grammaticality of linguistic constructions. However, although some inconsistency has been shown to exist in linguists’ judgments on linguistic data, Sprouse and Almeida 2012 shows that the reliability of the judgment seems to be surprisingly good, at least for textbook examples. The central problem turns out not to be lack of reliability but the fact that the exact reliability, in particular for new phenomena (possibly from less-studied languages), is impossible to estimate, as argued in Haider 2009. While sophisticated procedures exist to assess the reliability of empirical data, this is not the case for individual intuitive judgments. Haider 2009 and Eddington 2008 strongly argue the need of a scientific approach in linguistics. Gibson and Fedorenko 2013 gives concrete examples of cases where linguistic intuitions have failed when tested in experiments. A central question for the relevance of experimental data is how much insight they provide about linguistic competence or, more generally, linguistic representation. Hofmeister, et al. 2013 (cited under the Strong Competence Hypothesis) proposes possible ways to disentangle representation and processing issues in experimental data.

                                                                                                                          • Eddington, David. 2008. Linguistics and the scientific method. Southwest Journal of Linguistics 27.2: 1–16.

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                                                                                                                            Eddington argues very strongly that every science making empirical claims without following the scientific method runs into the danger of being a pseudoscience without falsifiable hypotheses. Given the strength of the argument, this makes a good paper for discussing experimental linguistics with advanced students.

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                                                                                                                            • Gibson, Edward, and Evelina Fedorenko. 2013. The need for quantitative methods in syntax and semantics research. Language and Cognitive Processes 28.1–2: 88–124.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/01690965.2010.515080Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Gibson and Fedorenko give some very clear examples of linguistic intuitions that are incompatible with recent empirical data. They argue that quantitative methods are generally needed, and nowadays sufficiently accessible, in order to put linguistic theories on solid ground. Given the strength of the argument, this paper should certainly be discussed in courses on experimental linguistics. Available online only, by subscription or purchase.

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                                                                                                                              • Haider, Hubert. 2009. The thin line between facts and fiction. In The fruits of empirical linguistics. Volume 1: Process. Edited by Sam Featherston and Susanne Winkler, 75–102. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

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                                                                                                                                Haider discusses some of the central obstacles in current generative grammar, which are related to the fact that theories are often built on stipulations without sufficient empirical evidence, and that theories are often built on verification, not on falsification, thus systematically ignoring counterevidence. Some background in generative grammars is certainly necessary for this paper.

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                                                                                                                                • Labov, William. 1996. When intuitions fail. Chicago Linguistics Society: Papers from the Parasession on Theory and Data in Linguistics 32:77–105.

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                                                                                                                                  Intuitions, from linguists as well as from naïve informant scan, deviate from actual language behavior. Labov presents conditions that enhance the probability of failure and proposes alternative empirical methods, insisting on the advantages of corpus analyses compared to acceptability judgments.

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                                                                                                                                  • Levelt, W. J. M. 1972. Some psychological aspects of linguistic data. Linguistische Berichte 17:18–30.

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                                                                                                                                    Levelt argues against uncontrollable introspectionism in linguistics and gives recommendations how to avoid it by using ranked instead of binary judgments, by ranking grammatical rules according to their importance, and by relying more on judgments with a high degree of reliability, such as cohesion judgments as indicators of syntactic boundaries. Levelt’s arguments are surprisingly close to recent discussions.

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                                                                                                                                    • Sprouse, Jon, and Diogo Almeida. 2012. Assessing the reliability of textbook data in syntax: Adger’s core syntax. Journal of Linguistics 48.3: 609–652.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/S0022226712000011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      This paper should be discussed in combination with Gibson and Fedorenko 2013. Sprouse and Almeida establish the statistical reliability of textbook data based on linguistic intuitions, which turn out to be surprisingly reliable.

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