LINGUIST List 3.231

Sat 07 Mar 1992

Disc: Are Rules Psychologically Real?

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  1. , on the existence of rules (WAS: la -> el)

Message 1: on the existence of rules (WAS: la -> el)

Date: 06 Mar 92 22:38:48 EST
From: <>
Subject: on the existence of rules (WAS: la -> el)

At the risk of seeming contentious, I must take exception to Jose
Ignacio Hualde's statement that "nobody would doubt that the rule
of plural formation for Spanish words ending in a consonant is to
add /-es/; but new borrowings may not undergo the rule, as in
poster-s (*poster-es), cf. the integrated dolar-es 'dollars'."
(Vol-3-218, Fri 06 Mar 1992)

This may seem like a minor point, but for those of us who are
interested in determining what a speaker's real psychological
linguistic knowledge is, saying that there is a rule X that
speakers know, but that they just happen not to apply that rule
to new words, or in a certain number of occasions, doesn't make
much sense. I think we must acknowledge that a lot of 'regular'
linguistic knowledge is stored in the lexicon. One need not be
alarmed by this heresy once one realizes that the present models
of lexical storage (repository of arbitrary, idiosyncratic
information, etc.) are not very realistic.

For example, as I have argued elsewhere (BLS 16, 1990), the
different rules that have been proposed for Spanish stress, in
spite of being about 95% accurate (about 5% exceptions), do not
seem to have any real existence in the speakers heads apart from
the words in the lexicon themselves. So when speakers are
presented with new words they have never seen before they do not
go to the rules to tell them how to stress them, but rather they
go to the lexicon and extract the pattern right from there.

Perhaps this is a topic whose time has come to be aired out in
the Linguist list. I for one would like to know more about what
other people have to say, especially since I am not a
phonologist or a morphologist.

Jon Aske
Linguistics, UC Berkeley
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