Journal of Psycholinguistic Research

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 7–25 | Cite as

Two Interpretive Systems for Natural Language?



It is proposed that humans have available to them two systems for interpreting natural language. One system is familiar from formal semantics. It is a type based system that pairs a syntactic form with its interpretation using grammatical rules of composition. This system delivers both plausible and implausible meanings. The other proposed system is one that uses the grammar together with knowledge of how the human production system works. It is token based and only delivers plausible meanings, including meanings based on a repaired input when the input might have been produced as a speech error.


Natural language interpretation Speech error reversal  Mismatch ellipsis Syntactic blends Acceptable ungrammaticality Noisy channel Good enough processing 



I am very grateful to Ellen Brandner, Greg Carlson, Chuck Clifton, Pat Keating, Jason Merchant, Chris Potts, and Ivan Sag for discussion of the ideas presented here, and to Janet Dean Fodor and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by R01HD18708 to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the German study was supported by Gisbert Fanselow’s Experimental Syntax group at the University of Potsdam.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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