Ph.D. Linguistics, University of Washington, 1985
Description of Research
Summary Statement of Research Interests
My research program is language faculty science as an exact science, where we rigorously pursue testability, reproducibility and quantitative analyzability, which are among the most commonly understood features of an exact science (such as physics). In my work, I provide conceptual justification for the thesis that it is indeed possible to make the study of language faculty as an exact science and empirical demonstration of how that can actually be done.
Adopting the general model of the Computational System in Chomsky 1993, the model of judgment-making suggested in Ueyama 2010, and the "Maximize our chances of learning from errors" heuristic, I propose a means to extract informant judgments that are likely a reflection of properties of the Computational System hypothesized to be at the center of the language faculty. (I assume that properties of the language faculty that fall outside the Computational System can be most effectively studied in line with the "Maximize our chances of learning from errors" heuristic if we build our research on the results obtained with regard to the properties of the Computational System.) One of the central claims in my work is that our hypotheses about the Computational System of the language faculty must be tested on the basis of data of a categorical nature, i.e., in terms of the contrast between complete unacceptability and the lack thereof. Not only is that necessary for the purpose of making our hypotheses testable in accordance with the hypothetico-deductive method, but it is also a consequence of adopting the model of judgment-making suggested in Ueyama 2010 and postulating a bridging statement that specifies a necessary condition for a particular interpretation involving two linguistic expressions.
More specifically, I argue that our empirical research must be built on confirmed schematic asymmetries, which I suggest should be regarded as "basic units of facts" for research that aims at a discovery of the properties of the Computational System of the language faculty by the hypothetico-deductive method. Roughly speaking, a confirmed schematic asymmetry obtains if and only if sentences conforming to one type of Schema are always judged to be completely unacceptable under a specified interpretation while those conforming to the other type of Schema, minimally different from the former in terms of the hypothesized formal property, are not necessarily judged to be completely unacceptable under the specified interpretation. Thus, even if there are some speakers who detect a statistically significant contrast among some relevant examples in question, that in and of itself is not of much significance.
I maintain that data for language faculty science are confirmed schematic asymmetries, which are reproducible phenomena that are "measurable," so to speak. Notice that it is not clear how non-categorical judgments can be "measured," without introducing some arbitrary criteria. If an alleged linguistic generalization is not supported by, or does not constitute, a confirmed schematic asymmetry, it is not (yet) part of data for language faculty science although it might well be part of a study of language.
Our predictions are based on two types of hypotheses insofar as they are concerned with properties of the Computational System. One type is about the Computational System and hence universal; the other type is language particular. The first type is unavoidable because we want to discover properties of the Computational System; the second type is unavoidable because we can test our predictions only with respect to a particular language. This assures us that we can most likely have a "preliminary experiment" (dealing with a language-particular hypothesis) for the experiment that deals with both the universal hypothesis and the language-particular hypothesis. On the basis of results in a preliminary experiment, we can identify the effective measuring devices in our further experiments. It is the possibility of conducting a preliminary experiment that makes it possible in principle for us to expect our point-value predictions to be supported by experimental results.
Conceptual issues:language faculty science as an exact science, the model of judgment-making by informants, the model of prediction-making. Empirical issue: anaphoric and scope dependency, "displacement," reconstruction effects, resumption, and ellipsis. Japanese.