Coyote Papers: Volume 06 (1987)
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Coyote Papers is a publication of the Linguistics Circle, the Graduate Student Organization of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona.
ISSN: 2770-1662 (Online)
ISSN: 0894-4539 (Print)
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Cues and Miscues: A Study of How Readers Assign Pronoun ReferenceTheories for the reading process that have been advanced can be roughly grouped into two related types: word recognition theories and more general psycholinguistic theories. The first type claims that reading involves recognizing words. This may be either the ability to recognize sight words or the ability to determine letter -to -sound correspondences in order to translate visual symbols into phonological information that can be processed by the oral language processing system. The second type of theory is based on the idea that reading involves processing perceptual input directly during cycles of sampling, inferring, predicting, confirming or disconfirming, correcting, and integrating. The first type of theory gives primary importance to visual information or phonic recordings during reading. The second approach claims that what goes on "behind the eyes ", the reader's background knowledge and cognitive strategies for inferring and predicting, is fully as important as what is printed on the page. While it is not possible to observe directly what goes on during silent reading, evidence from oral reading provides support for the more general psycholinguistic view. Readers' observed responses to text often vary from the expected responses. That is, readers often omit, insert, reverse, or substitute words or phrases for the words or phrases in the text. Consider the following two actual cases of substitution. The words the reader substituted are written over the text. (1) Jack Jones always went (wants) around in overalls or a sun suit (set). (2) Mr Barnaby talked some more with my folks. "It's settled I then," he (I) said as he was leaving. In (1) the substitutions are perceptually (both visually and phonetically) similar to the expected responses. Advocates of the word recognition approach could account for the substitutions by claiming that the reader did not look carefully enough at the printed symbols or by saying that the reader confused similar symbols. That is, the reader made mistakes in recognizing or in sounding out these words. In contrast those theorists working within a psycholinguistic framework would claim that the reader made use of syntactic, semantic, grapho-phonic, and pragmatic knowledge during the reading. The first substitution is of a verb for a verb, and the second is a noun for a noun. Thus, the reader used syntactic knowledge. The use of syntactic cues is especially evident in the fact that "wants" is properly inflected to agree with the subject. In addition, the reader used semantic knowledge, knowledge that "sun" and "set" frequently cooccur. Finally, the reader used grapho-phonic knowledge (knowledge of either graphemes or phonemes or a combination of the two) because the expected and observed responses look and sound alike. However, the reader made some incorrect predictions and attended more at times to perceptual cues than to the meaning of the sentence. Both theories, then, can offer some explanation for (1). But what about (2)? What does a word recognition theory of reading have to say about the substitution of "I" for "he "? There is no graphemic or phonological similarity here. Furthermore, these are short, frequently occuring words that the reader (in this case a sixth-grader) should have been expected to have mastered. In short, the word recognition theory of reading has nothing to say about cases like (2). On the other hand, the psycholinguistic theory can offer an explanation. For one thing, the reader used syntactic knowledge at the point of substituting "I" for "he" since both the expected response and the observed response are pronouns in subject position marked for nominative case. The reader's syntactic knowledge enabled him to predict correctly that a nominative pronoun would occur. In addition, since both words here are personal pronouns, there is a semantic similarity between the expected and observed responses. Furthermore, the reader used pragmatic cues to infer pronoun reference. The pronoun occurs as a dialog carrier, and the reader predicted that the unnamed narrator in this first-person narration would speak these lines. The reader appears to have used the earlier possessive pronoun "my" as a cue for pronoun reference rather than the proper noun "Mr Barnaby ". Thus, the reader used syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic cues to make his prediction, and these non-perceptual cues overcame the grapho-phonic cues in the text. As a result, there was a variation between his observed response and the expected response. Since only the psycholinguistic theory of reading can account for the substitution in the second sentence, it is to be preferred to a word recognition theory of reading.
Linguistics and General Process Learning TheoryThis paper is sort of an extended footnote, with a faint Borgesian flavor. What I'm going to do is show how one rather prominent argument in the linguistics literature against one aspect of the research program of behaviorism fails to go through. But I'll also observe that this argument appears to have had no practical effect on linguistic investigations, and that many people seem to assume (tacitly, at least) that this argument fails anyway. So my remarks here don't move the field forward any, but what I hope they do is help to get us all a bit clearer about where we are. The argument I'll be examining, given by Noam Chomsky in Reflections on Language (Chomsky 1975), is against a point of view called "general process learning theory ", a view that regards one goal of psychological theorizing to be the discovery of laws of learning that hold across species and across domains of acquisition. Psychological theorizing is by no means a new development on the linguistics scene. It is true, I think, that in most cases the people who have thought about language (including but not limited to people we would call linguists) have done so against the backdrop of a psychological theory that they assumed to be at least on the right track, and the idea was often to see what you could make of language by applying the analytical tools that the given psychological theory made available. Bloomfield (1926) is an example of this. (For some discussion of Bloomfield's views on psychology, see Lyons 1978, chapter 3.) One also in this context thinks of Piaget, Skinner of course, as well as philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries of both the continental Cartesian variety and the so-called British Empiricists. I also think it's true that Chomsky's impact on psychology is somewhat unusual in that the flow of influence is in the other direction; that is, the question is, "If human language is like this, then what must the mind be like ?" rather than the other way around. Be that as it may, Chomsky has been, by far and away, the leading expositor of the implications of linguistics for the study of the structure of the human mind. It goes without saying that the ramifications of this work have been very rich, the pivotal role of linguistics in the "cognitive sciences" being just one indication of its influence. One of the earliest engagements at discipline boundaries was Chomsky's forceful assault on B.F. Skinner's attempt to extend the domain of behaviorist psychology to human languages. It's this argument that I want to have another look at. To do this it will be useful to try to isolate several facets of the discussion. I should perhaps reiterate, for the connoisseurs of counterrevolution who I know are out there, that my conclusion will be a modest one. I will not be concluding that after all Skinner was right and Chomsky was wrong. On the contrary, I'm going to assume that this game is over, and has been for quite some time. My goal is to call attention to what I think is an Unsolved problem which acquires its interest because it bears on how we regard linguistics as influencing our judgment about the structure of the human mind.
Keley-I Consonant AssimilationKeley-i, a Philippine language, has two rules assimilating consonants across a vowel. Such rules might be taken as evidence against the Morphemic Tier Hypothesis (MTH) and against the Locality Condition (LC). The MTH states (1) Morphemic Tier Hypothesis (MTH) If and only if two segments are members of separate morphemes are those two segments aligned in separate phonological tiers. The Keley-i data suggest that the MTH does not hold universally because consonants assimilate across vowels, which has been taken as evidence for two segmental planes in order to prevent the crossing of association lines. The data also create problems for the Locality Condition: (3) Locality Condition (LC) A phonological rule is applicable only if the target and trigger are adjacent. The consonant features assimilate across an intervening vowel: the target and trigger, being skeletal slots, are not adjacent. I suggest here that adopting the feature hierarchy as proposed in Archangeli and Pulleyblank (1986) (which is a modification of Clements 1985) combined with underspecification theory (Archangeli 1984, Pulleyblank 1986, Archangeli and Pulleyblank 1986) allows an analysis of the Keley -i data which permits maintaining the MTH and the LC. A further result is that the Spreading Hypothesis is maintained as well, thus supporting the hypothesis that phonological assimilation is formally expressed in one manner only, namely by insertion of association lines, and not by feature copy rules. (See Hayes 1986, Archangeli and Pulleyblank 1986.) (4) Spreading Hypothesis Phonological assimilation is expressed only by rules adding association lines. The discussion is organized as follows. First, the feature hierarchy and the theory of underspecification are briefly outlined. I then present a partial analysis of the Keley-i data. The analysis consists of a syncope rule and some rules of consonant assimilation. Finally, I return to the problems that Keley -i presents for the MTH and the LC and propose that the relevant Keley-i data are not only in accordance with the MTH and the LC but predicted by the interaction of the two sub -theories, the Feature Hierarchy and Underspecification.