Looking into introspection

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Introspective judgments are often used in linguistics to obtain information about speakers’ mental representations of language. This chapter addresses two questions, namely: what shapes speakers’ judgments, and what such judgments provide information about. I argue that speakers’ judgments are influenced by their theories of language, which in turn are partly shaped by our experience with written language. The fundamental units that linguists use in their analyses – phonemes, words, and sentences – are largely products of a particular written tradition; and grammaticality judgments about isolated sentences are, to a considerable extent, judgments about what is acceptable in written language. Thus, linguistic intuitions are not direct reflections of mental representations of linguistic knowledge, but of speakers’ sensitivity to socially constituted norms.


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