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What are (Un)Acceptability and (Un)Grammaticality? How do They Relate to One Another and to Interpretation?

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Although grammatical sentences and their interpretations are generally considered the building blocks of linguistic theories, the relation between the theoretically deemed-to-be grammatical sentences and the notion of acceptability that speakers establish regarding them is far from being straightforward. ...

Although grammatical sentences and their interpretations are generally considered the building blocks of linguistic theories, the relation between the theoretically deemed-to-be grammatical sentences and the notion of acceptability that speakers establish regarding them is far from being straightforward.

Some grammatical sentences that present parsing complications (e.g. garden-path sentences) might appear unacceptable to speakers, as they are difficult to understand. Other sentences, considered as ungrammatical by theoreticians (e.g. wh-island violations, sentences with resumptive pronouns, semantically implausible sequences, and sentences with unlicensed negative polarity items) might be perceived as acceptable by speakers and lead to reliable interpretations.

To further complicate matters, recent research on how grammatical 'illusions' (e.g. negative polarity item licensing, and comparative illusions) are perceived, understood and processed has revealed that speakers can subconsciously correct ungrammatical or ill-formed sentences by making use of specific repair strategies. Studies have also revealed that adults can learn to understand novel constructions considered to be syntactically ungrammatical (e.g. the ‘needs’ construction).

Taking into account these experimental results, there is now a fundamental need for novel operational, empirically and theoretically grounded redefinitions for core notions such as:
(un)acceptability; (un)grammaticality and, finally, the continual exploration of the existing complex interactions between sentences’ (un)acceptability and (un)grammaticality and their final interpretation.

In this vein, it seems necessary to evaluate how suitable specialized research methods can be, to establish the degree and extent to which particular linguistic structures and their interpretations are acceptable or unacceptable to speakers and how this can reliably relate to theoretical (un)grammaticality. If necessary, more analytic methodologies (e.g. acceptability scales, elicitation techniques, time forced-choice tasks, etc.) must be developed in order to provide dependable results informing on linguistic theory. This should lead to (i) a better understanding of what makes (un)grammatical sentences (un)acceptable or the other way around, (ii) a better account of speaker’s preferences and optionality in connection to (un)acceptability and (un)grammaticality, and (iii) the role of performance factors, memory limitations, and processing mechanisms in the evaluation of (un)acceptability, (un)grammaticality, and interpretation of linguistic structures.

We welcome manuscripts addressing any of the following topics and subtopics from theoretical and/or experimental perspectives, covering a wide range of languages and linguistic structures:

-What is (un)acceptability in linguistics?
-How does (un)acceptability relate to (un)grammaticality?
-Methodological issues related to (un)acceptability and/or (un)grammaticality.
-How are speaker's preferences and optionality connected to (un)acceptability and (un)grammaticality?
-What factors are relevant for the evaluation of (un)acceptability, (un)grammaticality, and interpretation of linguistic structures?


Keywords: (un)acceptability, (un)grammaticality, interpretation, linguistics, experimental


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