Experiments in syntax and philosophy: the method of choice?

Samuel Schindler, Karen Kiil Brøcker

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Within Chomskyan syntax, linguistic intuitions have traditionally been gathered informally from small samples of linguists. Since the mid-1990s, however, several linguists have called for more “scientific” methods, including the use of larger sample sizes of ordinary speakers and the use of statistics. The first part of this chapter discusses whether such an “experimental approach” to obtaining syntactical intuitions is really methodologically superior to the informal approach, as is sometimes claimed. The answer is thought to be: not always. In the second part our attention turns to another academic field in which intuitions arguably play an evidential role, namely philosophy. Here, too, critics have demanded that intuitions be harvested more systematically; they have even appealed to experimental syntax in order to support their cause. However, given our assessment, experimental methods in syntax can be a model for the promotion of experimental methods in philosophy only under certain conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLinguistic intuitions : evidence and method
EditorsSamuel Schindler, Anna Drożdżowicz, Karen Brøcker
Number of pages20
Place of publicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9780198840558
ISBN (Electronic)9780198840558
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • aceptability judgment
  • experimental philosophy
  • experimental syntax
  • grammaticality judgment
  • intuition


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