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Phonetic Detail and Phonetic Gradience in Morphological Processes  

Patrycja Strycharczuk

It is uncontroversial that morphological processes can change phonological surface representations. However, some empirical evidence also suggests that morphological processes may trigger phonetically gradient processes, that is, processes that involve fine phonetic differences, but involve no change in phonological categories. Such findings challenge modular or discrete feedforward theories of grammatical architecture, which counterpredict direct interactions between morphology and phonetics. This article reviews some of the findings in this area, pointing to two types of difficulty in interpreting evidence of morphologically-conditioned phonetic gradience. The first one involves significance and replicability in experimental sciences, which become especially problematic when fine phonetic detail is examined and the magnitude of differences involved is very small. The second one concerns identifying what is causing the phonetic effects among a wealth of possibilities, including paradigmatic relationships, morphological structure, prosody, and informativity.

Article

Syntactic Features  

Peter Svenonius

Syntactic features are formal properties of syntactic objects which determine how they behave with respect to syntactic constraints and operations (such as selection, licensing, agreement, and movement). Syntactic features can be contrasted with properties which are purely phonological, morphological, or semantic, but many features are relevant both to syntax and morphology, or to syntax and semantics, or to all three components. The formal theory of syntactic features builds on the theory of phonological features, and normally takes morphosyntactic features (those expressed in morphology) to be the central case, with other, possibly more abstract features being modeled on the morphosyntactic ones. Many aspects of the formal nature of syntactic features are currently unresolved. Some traditions (such as HPSG) make use of rich feature structures as an analytic tool, while others (such as Minimalism) pursue simplicity in feature structures in the interest of descriptive restrictiveness. Nevertheless, features are essential to all explicit analyses.

Article

Enduring Debates on Psychology and Language in the 20th Century  

Trevor A. Harley

Research in the psychology of language has been dogged by some enduring controversies, many of which continue to divide researchers. Furthermore, language research has been riven by too many dichotomies and too many people taking too extreme a position, and progress is only likely to be made when researchers recognize that language is a complex system where simple dichotomies may not be relevant. The enduring controversies cover the width of psycholinguistics, including the work of Chomsky and the nature of language, to what extent language is innately determined and the origin of language and how it evolved. Chomsky’s work has also influenced our conceptions of the modularity of the structure of the mind and the nature of psychological processing. Advances in the sophistication of brain imaging techniques have led to debate about exactly what these techniques can tell us about the psychological processing of language. There has also been much debate about whether psychological processing occurs through explicit rules or statistical mapping, a debate driven by connectionist modeling, deep learning, and techniques for the analysis of “big data.” Another debate concerns the role of prediction in language and cognition and the related issues of the relationship between language comprehension and language production. To what extent is language processing embodied, and how does it relate to controversies about “embedded cognition”? Finally, there has been debate about the purpose and use of language.