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Department of Comparative Language Science

26.03.2024 - Aixiu An

Evidence for a communication-based approach to acceptability across 8 languages

Acceptability judgments – concerning sentences, word forms, and multi-sentence discourse – form the empirical foundation of much of linguistic theory. In this talk, I will introduce a new theory that approaches sentence acceptability from a communication-based perspective. The key to our theory is that the acceptability of a sentence is determined not only by its own grammatical structure, but also by the degree of its deviation from an errorless sentence.  To evaluate this theory, we conducted acceptability judgment tasks using sentences with scrambled word orders (Mirault et al. 2018;  Dufour et al. 2022). We examined sentences with varying numbers of word exchanges: for example, “A ball flying in the air can hurt.”(standard order);  “A ball flying in air the can hurt.” (one exchange);   “A ball in flying can the air hurt.” (3 exchanges).  The results show consistent patterns across 8 languages, suggesting this communication-based theory aligns closely with human acceptability judgments.