Who Cares What Who Prefers? A Study in Judgment Differences Between Syntacticians and Non-syntacticians

  • Gisbert FanselowEmail author
  • Jana Häussler
  • Thomas Weskott
Part of the Studies in Theoretical Psycholinguistics book series (SITP, volume 48)


This exploratory study contributes to the discussion of possible differences in the syntactic judgments of experts and non-experts. In particular, we investigated whether experts in a narrow sense (syntacticians) and experts in a broader sense (linguists not specializing in syntax) react differently to superiority violations in embedded clauses (who wonders what who saw) in an interpretation preference task. The overall result supports syntactic models that deal with superiority violations in terms of a competition between alternative expressions of the same meaning. The effects show up clearly in the judgment patterns of experts in the narrow sense (syntacticians) only, and thus point to the existence of a judgment difference among linguists from different subfields. This can lend support to an explanation in terms of shallow versus deep processing of complex syntactic structures.


  1. Clifton, C., Jr., Fanselow, G., & Frazier, L. (2006). Amnestying superiority violations: Processing multiple questions. Linguistic Inquiry, 37(1), 51–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Culbertson, J., & Gross, S. (2009). Are linguists better subjects? British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 60(4), 721–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Dąbrowska, E. (2010). Naïve v. expert intuitions: An empirical study of acceptability judgments. The Linguistic Review, 27(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fedorenko, E., & Gibson, E. (2010). Adding a third wh-phrase does not increase the acceptability of object-initial multiple-wh-questions. Syntax, 13(3), 183–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Golan, Y. (1993). Node crossing economy, superiority and D-linking. Ms., Tel Aviv University.Google Scholar
  6. Juzek, T. S. (2016). Acceptability judgement tasks and grammatical theory (Dissertation, University of Oxford).Google Scholar
  7. Kayne, R. (1983). Connectedness. Linguistic Inquiry, 14(2), 223–249.Google Scholar
  8. Kitahara, H. (1993). Deducing ‘Superiority’ effects from the shortest chain requirement. Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics, 3, 109–119.Google Scholar
  9. Kuno, S., & Robinson, J. (1972). Multiple wh-questions. Linguistic Inquiry, 3(4), 463–487.Google Scholar
  10. Lasnik, H., & Saito, M. (1992). Move a: Conditions on its application and output. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Luka, B. J., & Barsalou, L. W. (2005). Structural facilitation: Mere exposure effects for grammatical acceptability as evidence for syntactic priming in comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 52(3), 436–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Nagata, H. (1988). The relativity of linguistic intuition: The effect of repetition on grammaticality judgments. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 17(1), 1–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Reinhart, T. (1995). Interface strategies. OTS Working Papers.Google Scholar
  14. Schütze, C. T. (1996). The empirical base of linguistics: Grammaticality judgments and linguistic methodology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. Snyder, W. (2000). An experimental investigation of syntactic satiation effects. Linguistic Inquiry, 31(3), 575–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Sprouse, J., & Almeida, D. (2012). Assessing the reliability of textbook data in syntax: Adger’s Core Syntax. Journal of Linguistics, 48, 609–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Sprouse, J., Schütze, C., & Almeida, D. (2013). A comparison of informal and formal acceptability judgments using a random sample from Linguistic Inquiry 2001–2010. Lingua, 134, 219–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gisbert Fanselow
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jana Häussler
    • 2
  • Thomas Weskott
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Linguistics, University of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Courant-Research Centre “Text Structures,”Georg-August-UniversityGöttingenGermany

Personalised recommendations