Summer School 2016

Rens Bod: "Hierarchical versus Sequential Processing in Language: Towards a Linguistics without Structure?"

It is generally assumed that hierarchical phrase structure plays a central role in human language. However, recent computational and behavioral studies show that sequential sentence structure has considerable explanatory power and that hierarchical processing is often not involved. In this talk, which is partly based on joint work with Stefan Frank and Morten Christiansen, I review evidence supporting the hypothesis that sequential structure may be fundamental to language acquisition and use. I also outline a non-hierarchical model of language use, based on ideas from the Data-Oriented Parsing approach, and discuss its implications and predictions in modelling language acquisition and comprehension. Hierarchical structure needs only be invoked in cases where simpler explanations, based on sequential structure, do not suffice.

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