Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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Symposium #404
CE Offered: BACB
Verbal Behavior: Considerations of Translation, Morphology, and Syntax
Monday, May 26, 2014
2:00 PM–2:50 PM
W185d (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: VRB/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Robert Dlouhy (Western Michigan University)
CE Instructor: Koji Takeshima, Ph.D.

Three papers discussing theoretical considerations of practical issues will be presented. The first paper will discuss the translation of the VB-MAPP assessment instrument into Japanese. Based on Skinners taxonomy of verbal operants, translation of the VB-MAPP centers around developing prompts in Japanese that are functionally equivalent the English prompts in the original test. The translation task demonstrates the value Skinners functional approach. The second paper considers Skinners autoclitic of order as one of the sources of regularity in languages. This type of relational autoclitic can account for certain syntactic patterns and, surprisingly, for morphological regularities. It will be proposed that functionally distinct response sequences in a language can be accounted for as products of specific operants of order in a language. The symposiums final paper will contrast traditional accounts of language as systems of rules and units such as words, phrases, and sentences with Skinners account of verbal behavior that proposes a flexible array of intraverbal, formal and thematic influences. The latter interact in the history of the listener/speaker to produce grammatical behavior. Some traditional relational devices of language can be interpreted as discriminative functions which control grammatical responses.

Keyword(s): Autoclitics, Grammar, Translation, Verbal Behavior
Japanese Translation of an Assessment of Verbal Behavior
KOJI TAKESHIMA (Autism Consultation Room)
Abstract: Skinner proposed an alternative approach to the traditional views of language. His proposal is the functional account of language: what conditions are relevant to the occurrences of the behavior as a step after the topographical descriptions of language, such as grammars and syntaxes. The true value of his functional approach would be revealed when it is utilized to control verbal behaviors of individuals beyond the topographical boundaries of one language. VB-MAPP, Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program, is an assessment tool as well as a program development tool for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. This tool was developed based on Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior and utilizes the verbal operants as the units of analysis. It has been in process of being translated to multiple languages. There are various challenges in translating any assessment tools. However, because of the emphasis of the functional account as opposed to topographical descriptions, the translation may be a rather simple task, despite the fact that the large topographical discrepancies between English and Japanese. The larger task might be the education and training of Japanese users in the functional approach of verbal behavior.
Linguistic Regularity and Autoclitics of Order
ROBERT DLOUHY (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Any researcher trying to account for linguistic phenomena in behavior analytic terms must face the question of how it is that the verbal behavior within any speech community is highly regular. The regularity of verbal behavior – at least that subset called language – is due to a number of factors, one of which is the sequencing of responses. Skinner accounted in part for the sequencing of words by briefly mentioning autoclitics of order in chapter 13 of Verbal Behavior. This paper will discuss these autoclitics from both syntactic and morphological perspectives, and stress two points. First, autoclitics of order are ubiquitous, and second, they form specific response classes in a verbal community (i.e., a language). Skinner discussed autoclitics of order as a syntactic phenomenon, but in many languages, words themselves are complex responses whose constituent responses are strictly ordered. The regularity of response ordering in both syntax and morphology, then, can be accounted for by autoclitics of order. Further, regularity entails repeatability, and for this reason, autoclitics of order can be considered response classes within a language. The paper will conclude with the remark that syntactic and morphological “structure” is an epiphenomenon stemming from autoclitics of order.

Grammar and Syntax as Behavior

JOHN H. MABRY (Retired)

Regardless of the nature of modern theoretical grammars (syntax is a part of grammar) or the old fashion school room grammars, most basically concern themselves with the formal properties of written or spoken material, with the focus on sentence, phrase and word as structural entities. The way humans talk is often said to consist of words which follow rules.' Skinners treatment of verbal behavior challenged both assertions. He proposed that there were no standard units, such as words, sentences, etc. but that the size and composition of our speech and writing were in reality, more flexible. His unit of behavior lacks the physical bounds of any of the subdivisions of traditional grammatical or linguistic divisions. In their place he proposes a flexible array of intraverbal, formal and thematic influences which interact in the history of the listener/speaker to produce grammatical behavior, but may encompass those traditional units; morphemes, words, phrases, idioms, clauses, and so on ...which may have functional unity... in speech or writing. Some of the traditional relational devices of a language such as position and inflectional changes in terms (words) may be viewed as discriminative functions which guide the course of grammatical behavior.




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