Experimental Syntax

Experimental Syntax

In order to ground psycho- and neurolinguistic work in linguistic theories, one needs confidence that these theories rest on sound empirical grounds. However, there is a long-standing concern that is periodically revived in the language science community that severe methodological problems plague linguistic theory, leading to its increasing isolation and irrelevance within the cognitive sciences. A reconciliation would only be possible, under that view, if syntacticians radically reformed their research practices and adopted research methods that more closely approximate the practices of other psychological sciences.

Setting the empirical record straight: Acceptability judgments appear to be reliable, robust and replicable

Branigan and Pickering advocate the use of syntactic priming to investigate linguistic representations and argue it overcomes several purported deficiencies of acceptability judgments. While we recognize the merit of drawing attention to a …

Design sensitivity and statistical power in acceptability judgment experiments

Previous investigations into the validity of acceptability judgment data have focused almost exclusively on _type I errors_ (or false positives) because of the consequences of such errors for syntactic theories (Sprouse & Almeida 2012; Sprouse et al. …

Subliminal wh-islands in Brazilian Portuguese and the consequences for syntactic theory

Categorical acceptability judgments form an important and productive heuristic that provides a substantial body of data to theoretical linguists. Despite its popularity, however, they might not always provide an accurate representation of the …

A comparison of informal and formal acceptability judgments using a random sample from Linguistic Inquiry 2001-2010

The goal of the present study is to provide a direct comparison of the results of informal judgment collection methods with the results of formal judgment collection methods, as a first step in understanding the relative merits of each family of …

The empirical status of data in syntax: A reply to Gibson and Fedorenko

Gibson and Fedorenko (2013, henceforth G&F) claim that the traditional methods of data collection in syntax are invalid. They argue that these methods routinely yield unreliable data, which in turn casts doubt on the validity of the resulting …

The role of experimental syntax in an integrated cognitive science of language

Acceptability judgments form the primary empirical foundation for generative syntactic theories (Chomsky 1965, Schütze 1996). As such, the methodology of acceptability judgment collection has been a topic of research since the earliest days of …

Assessing the reliability of textbook data in syntax: Adger's Core Syntax

There has been a consistent pattern of criticism of the reliability of acceptability judgment data in syntax for at least 50 years (e.g., Hill 1961), culminating in several high-profile criticisms within the past ten years (Edelman & Christiansen …

The 469 data points that form the empirical foundation of generative syntactic theory are at least 98% replicable using formal experiments

Acceptability judgment collection in the field of generative syntax has generally proceeded informally, that is, without the formal methods familiar from experimental psychology. Two types of arguments have been proposed for the adoption of formal …

Power in acceptability judgment experiments and the reliability of data in syntax

The literature on acceptability judgment methodology has been recently dominated by two trends: criticisms of traditional informal judgment experiments as coarse and unreliable, and endorsement of larger, formal judgment experiments as more sensitive …