Binding scale dynamics: fact or fiction?

Published: 19 Feb 2019

The 20th century saw the theoretical linguistic pendulum swing from structure to usage. Saussureans and Chomskyans focused on the “neat and tidy” side of linguistics and described language structure independently of language use. Cognitive and functionally oriented linguists focused on usage facts to the extent that structure was largely ignored.

This paper encourages linguists to ask two interrelated questions: do speakers distil and store structure out of use , and if they do, how similar is the structure stored by speakers to the structure proposed by linguists?

The distance between usage and structure is assessed by investigating whether a theoretical linguistic construct, the Binding Scale, can reliably be distinguished in judgments of usage events through statistical unsupervised learning. By experimenting with the type of abstraction that needs to be imposed on acceptability ratings to arrive at a theoretically meaningful classification, conclusions can be drawn about the social and mental dimensions of this construct.

This chapter is freely available from DeGruyter via the link below.

Dagmar has published other work that questions the cognitive reality of traditional linguistic constructs and categories.

Together with Nina Szymor and Anna Socha-Michalik she conducted a study on classifications of modality in Polish:

2015. Less is more: possibility and necessity as centres of gravity in a usage-based classification of core modals in Polish. Russian Linguistics. International Journal for the Study of Russian and other Slavic Languages 39 (3): 327-349.

The study was later run on Russian in collaboration with Olga Lyashevskaya and Maria Ovsjannikova and the findings replicated:

2018. Looking for contextual cues to differentiate modal meanings: a corpus-based study. In: Quantitative Approaches to the Russian language, edited by Mikhail Kopotev, Olga Lyashevskaya and Arto Mustajoki. Routledge, 51-78. [New Developments in the Quantitative Study of Languages].