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Title: Linguistics and the Scientific Method


1
Linguistics and the Scientific Method
  • David Eddington
  • Brigham Young University

2
How many sociolinguists does it take to change a
lightbulb?
3
How many sociolinguists does it take to change a
lightbulb?
  • It varies.

4
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
5
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD

6
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device

7
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in

8
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in
  • Constraints counterclockwise

9
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in
  • Constraints counterclockwise (count)?

10
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in
  • Constraints counterclockwise (count)?
  • clockwise

11
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in
  • Constraints counterclockwise (count)?
  • clockwise (clock)

12
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
  • LGAD Lightbulb Changing Acquisition Device
  • Parameter Clockwise in or counterclockwise in
  • Constraints counterclockwise (count)?
  • clockwise (clock)
  • Constrain Rankings clock gtgt count
  • count gtgt clock

13
How many theoretical linguists does it take to
change a lightbulb?
14
Introduction
  • Empirical or scientific studies follow the
    scientific method.
  • Observe a phenomenon.
  • Formulate a hypothesis to explain it.
  • Carry out an experiment or collect other
    observations to test the hypothesis.
  • Analyze the results to determine whether they
    confirm or refute the hypothesis.

15
Introduction
  • Empirical or scientific studies follow the
    scientific method.
  • Observe a phenomenon.
  • Formulate a hypothesis to explain it.
  • Carry out an experiment or collect other
    observations to test the hypothesis.
  • Analyze the results to determine whether they
    confirm or refute the hypothesis.
  • Non-scientific studies don't follow the
    scientific method nor make scientific claims.

16
Introduction
  • Pseudo-science makes scientific sounding claims
    without following the scientific method.

17
Introduction
  • Pseudo-science makes scientific sounding claims
    without following the scientific method.

18
Introduction
  • Pseudo-sciencies often display these
    characteristics
  • They ignore contradictory evidence.
  • Their proponents often react in a hostile manner
    when their orthodoxy is challenged.
  • They use an inordinate amount of technical
    jargon.
  • The correctness of their ideas is supported by
    argumentation, reasoning, intuition,
    introspection, and reference to authority figures
    rather than tangible evidence.
  • Very little new real-world knowledge is
    produced.
  • It is impossible to subject their theories to
    scrutiny.
  • Explanations are vague and often involve
    scientific terms used out of context.

19
Step 1 Observation
  • Notice something.

20
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.

21
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.

22
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • Examples of unfalsifiable hypotheses
  • 1 Bloodletting and yellow fever

23
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • Examples of unfalsifiable hypotheses
  • 1 Bloodletting and yellow fever
  • 2 Flapping rule in American English (Kahn
    1976)?
  • Flaps occur after -cons segments city,
    sorted vs. aptitude
  • Flaps vary after 'l' (faculty, altar) so 'l'
    is either cons or -cons

24
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • Examples of unfalsifiable hypotheses
  • 1 Bloodletting and yellow fever
  • 2 Flapping rule in American English (Kahn
    1976)?
  • Flaps occur after -consonantal segments
    city, sorted vs. aptitude
  • Flaps vary after l (faculty, altar) so l
    is either cons or -cons
  • 3 Dutch stress (Oostendorp 1997)?
  • HEAD-R Primary stress falls on the right
    edge of a word.
  • NON-FIN Primary stress may not fall on the
    final syllable of a word.
  • NON-FIN gtgt HEAD-R predicts no final stress
  • But, words such as chocola have final
    stress?
  • In these cases, NON-FIN ltlt HEAD-R

25
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • Examples of linguistic hypotheses that ARE
    falsifiable
  • 1 Reflexives and pronouns cannot have the
    same referent (Chomsky 1981).?

26
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • Examples of linguistic hypotheses that ARE
    falsifiable
  • 1 Reflexives and pronouns cannot have the
    same referent (Chomsky 1981).
  • 2 Word-final deletion of 't' and 'd' occurs
    more in high frequency words (Bybee 2000).
  • just is pronounced jus' more than pest is
    pronounced pes'

27
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • C The hypothesis must deal with spatiotemporal
    events.

28
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • C The hypothesis must deal with spatiotemporal
    events.
  • Non-spatiotemporal linguistic entities
  • 1 Ideal speaker-hearer
  • Ideal Actual

29
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • C The hypothesis must deal with spatiotemporal
    events.
  • Non-spatiotemporal linguistic entities
  • 1 Ideal speaker-hearer
  • 2 Competence

30
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • C The hypothesis must deal with spatiotemporal
    events.
  • Non-spatiotemporal linguistic entities
  • 1 Ideal speaker-hearer
  • 2 Competence
  • Suppose we find some child who is quite adept at
    basic arithmetic. One possible hypothesis about
    the 'competence' thought to underlie this skill
    might be to attribute the child, not with
    something so mundane as a learned, laborious,
    step-by-step procedure for carrying out simple
    arithmetic operations, but rather with knowledge
    of number theory. And what if experimental
    results are found that seem to fly in the face of
    this hypothesis? Just chalk them up as
    'performance errors' and the well-formed theory
    remains inviolate. (Derwing 1983)?

31
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • Form a hypothesis by speculating about an
    explanation for the phenomenon.
  • A The hypothesis must predict something.
  • B The hypothesis must be potentially
    falsifiable.
  • C The hypothesis must deal with spatiotemporal
    events.
  • Non-spatiotemporal entities in physics
  • Strings
  • 1 They are one dimensional objects.
  • 2 Exist in space containing 10-24
    dimensions.
  • 3 Appear as protons or electons, etc.
    depending of frequency of vibration.

32
Step 2 Hypothesis Formation
  • And it turns out that the best and the brightest
    young theorists, instead of being concerned about
    the experimental enterprise, are going off among
    themselves and doing their thing with the doors
    closed. Because no one else is interested in
    coming, they're all making these secret signs to
    one another and putting incomprehensible formulas
    together that to them are, of course, central and
    simple and predictive and whatnot but to us are a
    little bit irrelevant.
  • They're answering a bunch of questions, but their
    questions lie completely within string theory,
    which has nothing to do with experiment.
  • What the string theorists do is arguably physics.
    It deals with the physical world. They're
    attempting to make a consistent theory that
    explains the interactions we see among particles
    and gravity as well. That's certainly physics,
    but it's a kind of physics that is not yet
    testable. It does not make predictions that have
    anything to do with experiments that can be done
    in the laboratory or with observations that could
    be made in space or from telescopes.
  • That is to say, there ain't no experiment that
    could be done nor is there any observation that
    could be made that would say, "You guys are
    wrong." The theory is safe, permanently safe. I
    ask you, is that a theory of physics or a
    philosophy? (Glashow 2003)?

33
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 1 According to some, linguistics is not
    empirical.
  • A Its goal is to find all and only
    intuitively valid formulae. (Itkonen1976)?

34
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 1 According to some, linguistics is not
    empirical.
  • A Its goal is to find all and only intuitively
    valid formulae. (Itkonen1976)?
  • B Linguistics deals with axioms about
    linguistic structure which make it possible to
    deduce all true statements about the system from
    a small set of prior assumptions about its
    nature. (Kac 44)?

35
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 1 According to some linguistics is not empirical.
  • A Its goal is to all and only intuitively
    valid formulae. (Itkonen1976)?
  • B Linguistics deals with axioms about
    linguistic structure which make it possible to
    deduce all true statements about the system from
    a small set of prior assumptions about its
    nature. (Kac 44)?
  • C Grammars do not (and moreover, are not
    intended to) dictate the ways in which the
    computation of speaking and listening proceed.
    (Bradley 1980)?

36
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 According to others, linguistics deal with
    real-world entities.
  • A Do speakers really retrieve morphemes from
    their memory, invoke rules, go through all these
    labours when speaking? We think they do.
    (Bromberg and Halle 2000)?

37
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 According to others, linguistics deal with
    real-world entities.
  • A Do speakers really retrieve morphemes from
    their memory, invoke rules, go through all these
    labours when speaking? We think they do
    (Bromberg and Halle 2000).
  • B The categories and operations of generative
    grammar are hypotheses about the representations
    and computations in the minds and brains of
    speakers. (Marantz 2005)?

38
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 Others espouse both empirical and non-empirical
    views at the same time.
  • A Explaining the actual processing of
    linguistic knowledge by the human mind is not
    the goal of the formal theory of grammar . . . a
    grammatical model should not be equated with its
    computational implementation. (Kager 1999)?

39
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 Others espouse both empirical and non-empirical
    views at the same time.
  • A Explaining the actual processing of
    linguistic knowledge by the human mind is not
    the goal of the formal theory of grammar . . . a
    grammatical model should not be equated with its
    computational implementation. (Kager 1999)?
  • Several pages later Kager discusses how his
    theory relates to language acquisition.

40
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 Others espouse both empirical and non-empirical
    views at the same time.
  • A Explaining the actual processing of
    linguistic knowledge by the human mind is not
    the goal of the formal theory of grammar . . . a
    grammatical model should not be equated with its
    computational implementation (Kager 1999).
  • Several pages later Kager discusses how OT
    relates to language acquisition.
  • B Linguisitics is a branch of cognitive
    psychology. (Chomsky 1972)?
  • Linguistic rules are psychologically real
    (Chomsky 1980).

41
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • 2 Others espouse both empirical and non-empirical
    views at the same time.
  • A Explaining the actual processing of
    linguistic knowledge by the human mind is not
    the goal of the formal theory of grammar . . . a
    grammatical model should not be equated with its
    computational implementation (Kager 1999).
  • Several pages later Kager discusses how OT
    relates to language acquisition.
  • B Linguisitics is a branch of cognitive
    psychology. (Chomsky 1972)?
  • Linguistic rules are psychologically real
    (Chomsky 1980).
  • Although we may describe the grammar G as a
    system of processes and rules that apply in a
    certain order to relate sound and meaning, we are
    not entitled to take this as a description of the
    successive acts of a performance model. (Chomsky
    1972)?

42
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • Is it any wonder people are confused about the
    scientific status of linguistics?

43
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • The problem consists of confusing empirical and
    non-empirical approaches.
  • No one confuses psychological theories of how
    people make inferences with the logical theories
    of implication, or psychological theories of how
    people perform arithmetical calculations with
    mathematical theories of numbers. Yet, in the
    exact parallel case of linguistics,
    conceptualists do not make the distinction,
    conflating a psychological theory of how people
    speak and understand speech with a theory of the
    language itself. (Katz 1985)?

44
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • The problem consists of confusing empirical and
    non-empirical approaches.
  • No one confuses psychological theories of how
    people make inferences with the logical theories
    of implication, or psychological theories of how
    people perform arithmetical calculations with
    mathematical theories of numbers. Yet, in the
    exact parallel case of linguistics,
    conceptualists do not make the distinction,
    conflating a psychological theory of how people
    speak and understand speech with a theory of the
    language itself. (Katz 1985)?
  • Psycholinguistic evidence doesn't relate to the
    most elegant, concise, intuitive analysis.
  • The most elegant, concise, intuitive analysis
    isn't necessarily part of actual cognitive
    processing.

45
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • The problem consists of confusing empirical and
    non-empirical approaches.
  • No one confuses psychological theories of how
    people make inferences with the logical theories
    of implication, or psychological theories of how
    people perform arithmetical calculations with
    mathematical theories of numbers. Yet, in the
    exact parallel case of linguistics,
    conceptualists do not make the distinction,
    conflating a psychological theory of how people
    speak and understand speech with a theory of the
    language itself. (Katz 1985)?
  • Psycholinguistic evidence doesn't relate to most
    elegant, concise, intuitive analysis.
  • Most elegant, concise, intuitive analysis isn't
    necessarily used in actual cognitive processing.
  • An analysis is pseudoscientific when it makes
    claims about the real world without following
    scientific methodology.

46
Digression What is Linguistics About?
  • So, choose either an empirical or non-empirical
    approach and then limit your conclusions to your
    own domain. Don't make claims that belong to the
    domain of the other approach!!

47
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.

48
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.

49
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.
  • Examples of how hypothesis and evidence are
    conflated
  • 1 Hypotheis Perform may not be followed by a
    mass noun perform a trick, perform labor
    (Chomsky 1962).

50
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.
  • Examples of how hypothesis and evidence are
    conflated
  • 1 Hypotheis Perform may not be followed by a
    mass noun perform a trick, perform labor
    (Chomsky 1962).
  • Evidence I am a native speaker of English.
    (Chomsky 1962)?
  • In other words, his hypothesis about perform
    is it's own evidence.

51
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.
  • Examples of how hypothesis and evidence are
    conflated
  • 1 Hypotheis Perform may not be followed by a
    mass noun perform a trick, perform labor
    (Chomsky 1962).
  • Evidence I am a native speaker of English.
    (Chomsky 1962)?
  • In other words, his hypothesis about perform
    is it's own evidence.
  • 2 Hypothesis Spanish speakers have a
    constraint against stress as in te.lé.fos.no
    (antepenultimate with a closed penultimate,
    Harris 1983).

52
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.
  • Examples of how hypothesis and evidence are
    conflated
  • 1 Hypotheis Perform may not be followed by a
    mass noun perform a trick, perform labor
    (Chomsky 1962).
  • Evidence I am a native speaker of English.
    (Chomsky 1962)?
  • In other words, his hypothesis about perform
    is it's own evidence.
  • 2 Hypothesis Spanish speakers have a
    constraint against stress as in
    te.lé.fos.no (antepenultimate with a closed
    penultimate, Harris 1983).
  • Evidence No words of this sort in Spanish.
    The observation in the lexicon is also the
    evidence for psychological reality of the
    observation.

53
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Test hypothesis by further observation or
    experimentation.
  • A hypothesis about a phenomenon is not evidence
    for that phenomenon.
  • Examples of how hypothesis and evidence are
    conflated
  • 1 Hypotheis Perform may not be followed by a
    mass noun perform a trick, perform labor
    (Chomsky 1962).
  • Evidence I am a native speaker of English.
    (Chomsky 1962)?
  • In other words, his hypothesis about perform
    is it's own evidence.
  • 2 Hypothesis Spanish speakers have a
    constraint against stress as in
    te.lé.fos.no (antepenultimate with a closed
    penultimate, Harris 1983).
  • Evidence No words of this sort in Spanish.
    The observation in the lexicon is also the
    evidence for the observation.
  • Alvord (2003) shows Spanish speakers don't
    reject words like te.lé.fos.no.

54
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Data must be publically available. This allows
    replication.
  • Examples of studies that are not publically
    available
  • A Anything based on personal introspection.

55
Step 3 Experimentation
  • Data must be publically available. This allows
    replication.
  • Examples of studies that are not publically
    available
  • A Anything based on personal introspection.
  • B Lozonov's Suggestopedia

56
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • 1 Science uses statistics.

57
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • 1 Science uses statistics.
  • 2 Both confirmed and refuted hypotheses are
    valuable.
  • A Cold fusion

58
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • C Refuted hypotheses should be abandoned, or
    modified and further tested.

59
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • C Refuted hypotheses should be abandoned, or
    modified and further tested.
  • D It is tempting to ignore counter evidence
  • 1 In linguistics it is often deemed
    uninteresting or peripherial to the core of
    the theory (Schütze, 1996).

60
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • C Refuted hypotheses should be abandoned, or
    modified and further tested.
  • D It is tempting to ignore counter evidence
  • 1 In linguistics it is often deemed
    uninteresting or peripherial to the core of
    the theory (Schütze 1996).
  • 2 The counter evidence violates more the
    letter than the spirit of the projection
    principle. (Burzio 1986).

61
Step 4 Analyze the Data
  • C Refuted hypotheses should be abandoned, or
    modified and further tested.
  • D It is tempting to ignore counter evidence.
  • 1 In linguistics it is often deemed
    uninteresting or peripherial to the core of
    the theory (Schütze 1996).
  • 2 The counter evidence violates more the
    letter than the spirit of the projection
    principle. (Burzio 1986).
  • 3 Chosmky cited A-over-A principle years after
    his own student refuted it (Haley and Lunsford
    1994).

62
Conclusions
  • Why follow the scientific method in linguistics?

63
Conclusions
  • No nya nya. Both empirical and non-empirical are
    worthy pursuits.

64
Conclusions
  • Why follow the scientific method in linguistics?
  • A Because making empirical claims without
    following scientific methodology is
    pseudoscience.

65
Conclusions
  • Why follow the scientific method in linguistics?
  • A Because empirical claims without following
    scientific methodology is pseudoscience.
  • We don't want linguistics to be thought of as

66
Conclusions
  • Why follow the scientific method in linguistics?
  • A Because empirical claims without following
    scientific methodology is pseudoscience.
  • B Lack of progress and stagnation will occur.
  • The explanations they Freudian psychologists
    provided created only the illusion of
    understanding. By attempting to explain
    everything after the fact, they barred the door
    to any advance. Progress occurs only when a
    theory does not predict everything but instead
    makes specific predictions that tell us --in
    advance-- something specific about the world.
    (Stanovich 1996)?

67
Conclusions
  • The scientific method isn't perfect, but it's the
    best we have.
  • "The scientific method is the only reliable way
    to seek out the truth of natural events. Yes,
    experiments can fail spectacularly,
    interpretation of experiments can be misguided,
    and science can make mistakes. The nature of
    science is self-correcting. No major fallacy can
    long persist in the face of a progressive
    increase in knowledge. (Collins 2006)?

68
  • Thank you
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