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Magnitude Estimation of Linguistic Acceptability

Ellen Gurman Bard, Dan Robertson and Antonella Sorace
Language
Vol. 72, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 32-68
DOI: 10.2307/416793
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/416793
Page Count: 37
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Magnitude Estimation of Linguistic Acceptability
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Abstract

Judgments of linguistic acceptability constitute an important source of evidence for theoretical and applied linguistics, but are typically elicited and represented in ways which limit their utility. This paper describes how MAGNITUDE ESTIMATION, a technique used in psychophysics, can be adapted for eliciting acceptability judgments. Magnitude estimation of linguistic acceptability is shown to solve the measurement scale problems which plague conventional techniques: to provide data which make fine distinctions robustly enough to yield statistically significant results of linguistic interest: to be usable in a consistent way by linguistically naive speaker-hearers, and to allow replication across groups of subjects. Methodological pitfalls are discussed and suggestions are offered for new approaches to the analysis and measurement of linguistic acceptability.

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