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ERIC Number: ED546670
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 527
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-0247-6
The Psychological Import of Syntactic Theory
Pereplyotchik, David
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, City University of New York
My primary goal is to assess whether, and in what sense, the rules or principles of grammar are psychologically real. I begin by casting doubt on a received view in generative linguistics, according to which a true theory of the syntax of natural language would, ipso facto, be a theory of a psychological state or mechanism. I argue that a nominalist construal of linguistic theory is a viable alternative to the dominant Chomskyan view that linguistics is a branch of psychology. If this is correct, it follows that there are substantive issues about whether the theoretical constructs of formal linguistics play any role in psychological processes, and, if so, what role they play. To address these issues, I examine a range of behavioral and neurocognitive data from psycholinguistics. The data strongly suggest that the human language processing mechanism constructs mental representations of the syntactic properties of incoming linguistic stimuli. I then survey a number of computational models of human language comprehension. While all such models account for an impressive range of data, they make use of the rules or principles of a grammar in one of two very different ways--either by explicitly representing them in a data structure or by embodying them in the form of hardwired procedural dispositions. It is reasonable to suppose, then, that grammars are psychologically real in one of these two ways. But which? To answer this question, I go on to sketch a theoretical framework for thinking about represented and embodied rules, distinguishing embodiment from mere conformity to a rule. I then argue that embodied rules are typically implemented by simpler mechanisms, and that embodiment is, therefore, the more parsimonious hypothesis ("ceteris paribus"). Furthermore, I argue that we have no principled grounds, at present, for asserting that grammars are represented, rather than embodied, in the human brain. From this, I conclude that a common claim in generative linguistics, i.e., that grammars are "represented" in the minds of competent language users, must be seen as either as a conflation of the notions of embodiment and representation, or as an attractive but as-yet-ungrounded hypothesis. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A