The Analogical Modeling of Language
Steve Chandler, English and Neuroscience
Abstract: Linguistics is the study of the nature of language. As a psycholinguist, I am particularly interested in trying to understand how language is acquired and represented in the brain. The predominant theories of how language is represented in the brain posit acquisitional processes in which the brain abstracts generalizations about one's language away from instances of linguistic experience and forms physical, neurological, representations of those generalizations. Those resident linguistic generalizations become in turn the brain's basis for producing and comprehending subsequent instances of linguistic usage. That is, they become the neurological basis for speaking and understanding your language. For much of the past 20 years, I have participated in a research group that posits a very different view of the nature of linguistic generalizations. Rather than positing resident linguistic generalizations that have been abstracted away from one's linguistic experiences, the Analogical Model posits that throughout one's lifetime people simply accumulate memories for instances of linguistic experiences. Their subsequent use of the language-whether production or comprehension-involves comparing the current communicative act with that collection of instances of previously experienced communicative acts and identifying-on the fly-one or more patterns inherent in that collection which best interprets or achieves the current communicative act. Our reading of the research literature is that the empirical evidence continues to confirm the predictions of the Analogical Model over those of the competing theories.