A multimodel inference approach to categorical variant choice: construction, priming and frequency effects on the choice between full and contracted forms of am, are and is

Danielle Barth, Vsevolod Kapatsinski

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The present paper presents a multimodel inference approach to linguistic variation, expanding on prior work by Kuperman and Bresnan (2012). We argue that corpus data often present the analyst with high model selection uncertainty. This uncertainty is inevitable given that language is highly redundant: every feature is predictable from multiple other features. However, uncertainty involved in model selection is ignored by the standard method of selecting the single best model and inferring the effects of the predictors under the assumption that the best model is true. Multimodel inference avoids committing to a single model. Rather, we make predictions based on the entire set of plausible models, with contributions of models weighted by the models' predictive value. We argue that multimodel inference is superior to model selection for both the I-Language goal of inferring the mental grammars that generated the corpus, and the E-Language goal of predicting characteristics of future speech samples from the community represented by the corpus. Applying multimodel inference to the classic problem of English auxiliary contraction, we show that the choice between multimodel inference and model selection matters in practice: the best model may contain predictors that are not significant when the full set of plausible models is considered, and may omit predictors that are significant considering the full set of models. We also contribute to the study of English auxiliary contraction. We document the effects of priming, contextual predictability, and specific syntactic constructions and provide evidence against effects of phonological context.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)203-260pp
    JournalCorpus Linguistics and Linguistic Theory
    Volume13
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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