Real Language Users

Chipere, Ngoni. (1998) Real Language Users. [Preprint] (Unpublished)

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The idea of a perfectly competent but resource limited language user is the basis of many models of sentence comprehension. It is widely assumed that linguistic competence is a) uniform; b) generative; c) autonomous; d) automatic and e) constant. It is also believed that the free expression of these properties is frustrated by limits in the availability of computational resources. However, no firm experimental evidence for the classical language user appears to exist. Negative evidence for each assumption is reviewed here and the notion of resource limitations is shown to be suspect. An experiment is reported which tested each of the five assumptions underlying the conventional notion of linguistic competence. It was found that native speakers of English a) differed in grammatical skill; b) often failed to display productivity; c) violated syntax in favour of plausibility; d) expended conscious effort to comprehend some sentences and e) appeared to adapt to novel structures as the experiment progressed. In line with previous studies, a relationship was found between comprehension skill and formal education. A new finding is that highly educated non-native speakers of English can outperform less educated native speakers of English in comprehending grammatically challenging English sentences. The results indicate that the classical language user is an inaccurate model of real language users, who appear to differ considerably in linguistic skill. A number of specific questions for further research are raised.

Item Type:Preprint
Keywords:uniform competence, generativity, syntactic productivity, education, syntax, parsing, memory, resource limitations, working memory, language learning, linguistic skill, grammatical skill, ideal language user, native speaker, individual differences, novel sentences, complex sentences, phrase structure, constituent structure
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Psychology > Psycholinguistics
ID Code:712
Deposited By: Chipere, Ngoni
Deposited On:29 Jun 1998
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54


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