Rule-List Fallacy

A. Katz amnfn at
Wed Jun 11 01:29:18 UTC 2008

The rule-based approach and the list approach are functionally equivalent,
when they produce the same results. Most of the time, they do produce the
same results.

This argument is all about processing and maximizing of processing
resources: time vs. space. But surely there is more to language than the
divergent strategies employed by speakers to process it, whether in
production or comprehension. Some people use more memory. Others use less
memory, but they process rules more rapidly. Some languages promote the
one approach over the other. Some individuals have less grammatical capacity,
but compensate through social cuing. Some are socially clueless, but their
ability to follow formal rules allows them to decode messages without
reference to the sender's state of mind.

The more powerful theory would be one that explains how it is possible for
speakers and hearers with highly divergent templates for language
processing to understand each other's linguistic messages. In order to do
this, we must focus on the properties of the language code itself.


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