EM1: The epistemological status of empirical data data in linguistics

Coordinator: S. Auroux (HTL, Paris 7)


Particicipants in the LABEX-EFL: C. Puech, S. Archaimbault, J. M. Fortis, D. Samain (HTL),  J. M. Marandin (LLF), J. Léo Léonard (LPP-P3), Barbara Hemforth, Serge Nicolas (LPNCog).


Developments in corpus linguistics over the last twenty years, the more or less convergent developments in the fields of neuro-imaging, psycholinguistics, cognitive linguistics, computational linguistics, the development of experimental procedures which are more or less fine-tuned according to the desired levels of linguistic analysis, etc, point to the possible emergence of a new paradigm in linguistics. Nonetheless, the consistency and degree of "novelty" of this paradigm can only be evaluated rigorously if one adopts a historically grounded epistemological approach.

Taking as a starting point S. Auroux's work on the empirical nature of linguistics (Auroux 1998), we propose to take a closer look at the experimental turn promoted in the Labex EFL: the notions of experimental protocol, biases, artifacts, data will be carefully analyzed. They will be compared to the notions and methodologies used to-date: examples, contrasts, and counter-examples. Experimentation in linguistics will be compared to experimentation in other natural or social sciences. In particular, it is crucial to carefully investigate how the experiments in EFL are – or will be – different from the experiments currently run in psycholinguistics. We will resort to the expertise of the participants specialized in 19th or 20th century linguistics history to critically evaluate the progress of EFL. Hence, the issues to be addressed are:

·       The relationships that can be established between the technics used in linguistics so far (S. Auroux 1998) and the development of experimental procedures;

·       The questioning of Milner’s 1989 claim that "there is no observatory in linguistics”;

·       The effect of the existence of an inherited grammatical "format" ("Extended Latin Grammar" or others) on current research;

·       The relationships between "field linguistics" and “ experimental linguistics”,  in particular with respect to the elicitation of data or judgments/comments on those data.

·       The notion of "artifact" and "bias" and their production procedures;

·       The diversification of available mathematical "resources" and modeling, in particular probabilistic models.

Deliverables Main research area Time frame

Epistemological questions will be studied

for the whole duration of the project

All levels of analysis 2011-2021