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Towards an explanatory division of competence and performance : a language-independent parsing scheme Alphonce, Carl G.

Abstract

This dissertation defends in some small measure the thesis that there is a universal parsing model for natural languages. Such a model will apply, without change, cross-linguistically. The defense of this thesis proceeds by finding solutions to some apparently insurmountable problems which arise from the interaction of a set of basic and seemingly uncontroversial assumptions concerning both the linguistic framework and the computational one. Some of the difficulties associated with parsing overtly and covertly derived unbounded A dependencies, as instantiated in English and Chinese in particular, are explored; solutions which are psycholinguistically plausible are presented. In further defense, it is claimed that there are certain linguistic phenomena, such as Relativized Minimality and some curious directional asymmetries in the movement rule move-a, which are better analyzed as artifacts of performance constraints, rather than competence constraints; by removing some of the burden from the competence theory(the syntactic theory, in this case) and placing it on the performance theory (the parsing model), a more perspicuous model of human language-processing emerges. By delimiting more strictly the division between competence and performance in this manner, the adoption of a universal parsing scheme is made possible. This cross-linguistically applicable model makes strong computational and linguistic predictions, which are also explored.

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