The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Comp-Lang reading group - Danfeng Wu (MIT Linguistics)

Speaker: Danfeng Wu (MIT Linguistics)
TitleSyntactic Theory: A Formal Introduction Chapters 9.3-9.9 by Sag, Wasow and Bender (2003)
Location: 46-5165
Time: Thursday, 3/14, 5-6pm


What is the role of psycholinguistic evidence (specifically evidence from language processing) in the study of language? What is the relation between knowledge of language and use of language? We hope to explore these questions through a discussion of an HPSG textbook chapter. HPSG (Head-driven phrase structure grammar) is a different syntactic framework from generative transformational grammar, and is surface-oriented, constraint-based and strongly lexicalist. This textbook chapter argues that HPSG is more compatible than transformational grammar with observed facts about language processing. For instance, language processing is incremental and rapid (e.g. Tanenhaus et al. 1995 & 1996, Arnold et al. 2002). The order of presentation of the words largely determines the order of the listener’s mental operations in comprehending them. And lexical choices have a substantial influence on processing (MacDonald et al. 1994). For these reasons, such psycholinguistic evidence supports an HPSG type of grammar, and poses difficulty to transformational grammar.