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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more

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Can anyone overtake Syntax in the Subfield Challenge ?

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Discussion Details

Title: Review of 'Chomsky's Minimalism'
Submitter: Lise Menn
Description: I remind my colleagues who are hotly discussing the on-line issue of
whether thinking comes before speaking that there are several decades of
empirical psycholinguistic work on this topic, e.g. by Merrill Garrett,
Willem Levelt, Kay Bock, and their colleagues, showing that there is a very
intricate on-line interaction between syntactic and semantic aspects of a
sentence as pre-verbal messages get encoded. Bock, for example, has shown
that some aspects of syntax are primed without respect to meaning, while
Levelt & colleagues (as well as others) have shown that the information to
be encoded affects the syntactic form chosen. These findings are not
contradictory, but complementary, as the researchers themselves fully
agree: it depends on what aspect of sentence production one is looking at.

A little googling will introduce you to this area of research, much of
which is written clearly enough so that you don't have to be a working
psycholinguist to understand it. Try reading the Bock & Levelt chapter in
Gernsbacher's 1994 Handbook of Psycholinguistics, for a start. Arguments
about what takes place in real time and real brains cannot be decided by
logical and linguistic methods alone, because the data used by 'pure'
linguistics just don't deal with activities in real time.
Date Posted: 12-Sep-2008
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
LL Issue: 19.2780
Posted: 12-Sep-2008

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