LINGUIST List 4.902

Sun 31 Oct 1993

Disc: Psycholinguistics

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Joseph P Stemberger-1, experimental methods

Message 1: experimental methods

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1993 09:48:30 experimental methods
From: Joseph P Stemberger-1 <>
Subject: experimental methods

Mike Hammond asks whether there is a growing acceptance of
psycholinguistic methods among orthodox phonologists and syntacticians. As
a non-orthodox phonologist, working with psycholinguistic methods more
often than not, I'd say that the answer to that question is "yes".

I've noticed a change in referee's comments on my papers in the review
process over the years. In the early to mid 1980's, I would sometimes have
papers rejected because they used psycholinguistic methodology, or be
asked to add a section justifying the relevance of the data. Nowadays,
neither of these two things happens.

There's a change in papers at conferences. Papers on acquisition or
psycholinguistics or neurolinguistics can sometimes account for 20% of the
papers at the conferences. (Up from a very low percentage 20 years ago.)

There are more and more jobs that ask for an intersection of phonology or
syntax with psycholinguistics/language_acquisition/cognitive_science.

I'm not sure what is behind the change, but I suspect that it is cognitive
science. As cognitive science grows larger, people in different
disciplines are interacting more often (and often more positively than
before), and that is leading to greater tolerance. It may also have
something to do with Chomsky's emphasis on the importance of acquisition
as a core problem that must be accounted for. It's a small step from
acquisition methodology with children to experimental methodology with
either children or adults.

I still do see a reluctance to accept stuff based on psycholinguistic
methodologies, though. Basically, people willingly embrace results that
seem to give the same answers that they want to believe in. But when the
results seem to discomfirm linguistic theory, people are more reluctant to
accept them. Often, we have this odd situation where congruent results get
prominent mention in a theoretical paper, but noncongruent results don't
get mentioned at all.

But I do think that things have been changing. And as a psycholinguist, I
regard it as a very nice (and very healthy) change.

 ---joe stemberger
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