Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Friday, August 11, 2006

Language vs psychology

Back again to the question of what does psychology have to do with language. The problem is this: if we want to study the psychological aspects of language, the only thing we can measure is speech (or sign-language). But, speech is NOT made up of syntactic units, but of prosodic units. And the mapping between syntax and prosody is not fantastic. And so, when originally people tried to find the psychological reality of language, they measured speech, and (unbeknowst to them) were actually finding the psychological reality of speech. One response was a denial of the psychological reality of syntax (is this what brings Jacques to his current position on the issue?). The other was the development of a theory of speech: phonology. Syntax vs phonology One way of looking at it is, that the sequence of words itself is generated by syntax, and the actualization is the domain of phonology. But, here's a problem: Take the case of Heads vs Complements. What determines the relative order of H & C? One possibility is that this is in the output system itself. So, an unordered pair (H,C) is sent to the output module, and the module has to serialize them. So, it might be that the H-C order is a consequence of having to linearize the unordered (H,C) pair. But then what about everything else? What about movement, for example? In general, any two words can be represented as unordered pairs. In fact, in a parallel architecture, one could presumably get rid of all seriality, so that an entire sentence is simply one bowl of spaghetti which in its totality represents the content of a thought. So does movement come out of the necessity for linearization as well? Or maybe it comes about for yet another class of reasons having to do with stuff like pragmatics etc. Maybe, like the ¿ in Spanish, which tells you right at the beginning of a sentence that it will be a query, the wh- elements are just a quick way of letting the other person know there's a question happening. It happens to involve movement, but that might not be the interesting observation about wh- movement.


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