The research aims at establishing the importance of robust experimental methodology for the reliable elicitation of acceptability judgements, the basis of modern linguistic theory. It extends standard methodological practice in comparative linguistics wit h a psycholinguistic experimental methodology that allows objective cross-linguistic comparisons, necessary for identifying linguistic universals and the locus of cross-linguistic variation.
The research will focus on the gradient nature of linguistic judgements, i.e. the acknowledgement that sentences are not always straightforwardly acceptable/grammatical or unacceptable/ungrammatical, but sentences of intermediate acceptability exist. In particular, a series of experimental studies will quantify the improvement certain factors induce in the acceptability of pronominals in questions, relative clauses and Topicalisation/Clitic Left Dislocation structures. Parallel experiments will be conducted in English, German, Italian, French, Greek and Hebrew; the collected data will provide the basis for a theory of pronominals in the structures under investigation and gradient grammaticality.
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