Towards a situated view of language

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By examining a brief history of psycholinguistics and its various approaches to research on sentence processing, we point to a general convergence toward evidence that multiple different linguistic constraints interact in real-time to allow for successful comprehension of a sentence.  While some traditions emphasized the unique importance syntactic structure and others emphasized semantic content, a consensus appears to be forming that sentence processing may be best characterized as involving fluid interaction among a wide variety of information formats, including acoustic-phonetic processing, lexical statistics, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and even visual environments, action affordances, and social contexts.  Rather than searching for the “cognitive architecture” of the language system in the form of a box-an-arrow diagram that displays which processing module becomes operative before which other processing modules, this extensive array of findings suggests that the field of sentence processing may find clearer success by treating the process as a dynamical system composed of interactive processes, rather than domain-specific processors.


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