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.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #547
Interdisciplinary Investigations in Behavior Analysis and Linguistics
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
12:00 PM–1:20 PM
214C (CC)
Area: VRB/TPC; Domain: Theory
Chair: Sakurako Sherry Tanaka (Laurel Behavior Support Services)
Abstract: This symposium presents four papers which move the analysis of verbal behavior closer to, and even into the field of linguistics. The first paper begins with a historical perspective, arguing that a gap between behavior analysis and linguistic studies has developed and widened since the 1960s, but suggesting that in the areas of language acquisition, sociolinguistics and language change, equating language and behavior would produce beneficial results. The second paper takes a close look at Skinner’s concept of the autoclitic, and investigates the linguistic influences that affected his development of the concept. It argues that a better understanding of the autoclitic’s linguistic basis will aid behavior analyst’s research in this area. The third paper also treats the autoclitic, this time in relation to an analysis of articles in English noun phrases. It argues that as an autoclitic, the noun phrase is a functional response class in English. The final paper returns to the broader themes of sociolinguistics and language acquisition raised in the first presentation. It argues that autistic children in multicultural/multilingual environments require a bilingual component of intervention to acquire necessary life skills.
Linguistics and Behavior Analysis: Will the Twain Ever Meet?
RAYMOND S. WEITZMAN (California State University, Fresno)
Abstract: During the 1930s and 1940s and even into the 1950s there was considerable interaction between behaviorists and linguistics, especially with the preeminent linguist of the day, Leonard Bloomfield, supporting a behavioral approach to language. But by the late 1950s and early 1960s following the Chomskyan Revolution in linguistics, more mentalistic, cognitive, and nativist approaches began to dominate. Today the gap has widened so much that one wonders whether the twain shall ever meet again. Donald Baer in a commentary of Ernst Moerk’s The Mother of Eve (1983) suggested that all that was needed to get linguists and (behavioral) psychologists to interact was “an equation of language to behavior.” Baer’s comments were in the context of issues concerning language acquisition. This presentation will not only explore further such issues in language acquisition where the joint endeavors of linguists and behaviorists may prove mutually beneficial, but will also look at other issues in such areas as sociolinguistics and language change where constructing “an equation of language to behavior” might prove to be fruitful.
Linguistics and the Concept of Autoclitic
MARIA DE LOURDES PASSOS (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)
Abstract: The autoclitic is the most complex and difficult to understand of the verbal operants formulated by Skinner in Verbal Behavior (1957). Skinner conceived of the autoclitic based not only on his behavior analytical model of the contingency of three terms, but also on several linguistic analyses whose identification and understanding is necessary to the proper comprehension of this operant and to contribute to the design of better technologies for improving speakers’ and listeners’ repertoires. The lack of identification of this linguistic foundation may be one of the reasons why not much work, either theoretical or applied, on this subject matter has been done by behavior analysts. In spite of the fact that Skinner does not refer explicitly to most of his linguistic sources, they can be identified through the examples that he gives, the problems that he raises, and some other bits of information presented in Verbal Behavior and others of his works.
Autoclitics as Response Classes: A Study of Articles and Determiners in English Noun Phrases
ROBERT DLOUHY (Western Michigan University)
Abstract: Very little work has been done to date using behavior-analytic principles to thoroughly describe and explicate specific syntactic properties of a language. Most behavior-analytic discussions of syntactic phenomena have been conceptual, and discussions of particular phenomena have been fragmentary. This study attempts a more thorough behavior-analytic description of a specific syntactic phenomenon in English, the use of articles and other determiners in noun phrases. The analysis finds that what is traditionally called a noun phrase should be regarded as a generalized autoclitic response class. The English-speaking verbal community is conditioned to respond to the primary verbal stimulus (the noun) in the context of this autoclitic, which provides stimuli allowing listeners to respond appropriately to the noun’s number, abstractness, and relative identifiability, possession, and location. Intraverbal effects from other responses internal and external to this autoclitic, traditionally called grammatical and discourse effects, also influence the emission of articles and determiners. This study shows syntactic structures such as noun phrases can be accounted for as autoclitic response classes within a language, and that multiple sources of stimulus control can be identified. It is concluded that a behavior-analytic approach can provide an interesting and useful analysis of lower-level syntactic phenomena.
Bilingual Intervention: Toward an Equation of Language to Behavior
SAKURAKO SHERRY TANAKA (Laurel Behavior Support Services)
Abstract: Limited studies are available on bilingual intervention for children diagnosed with Autism and related developmental disorders, despite the dire need of “contextually fit” ABA service delivery for the multi-lingual population, an increasing characteristic of global society today. On the contrary, in applied linguistics more than 150 bilingualism studies have been conducted in the last four decades, strongly supporting that multilingualism is not only a child’s right but also an integral element of his/her identity. This presentation will shed light on the inconsistency -or world apart - between the two disciplines, linguistics and behavior analysis, culminating in a common misconception by many clinicians and analysts in the latter that “autistic kids cannot learn more than one language; bilingualism is unsuited for them.” Furthermore, linguists have duly neglected to acknowledge the rightful contribution Skinner’s operant conditioning has made to the acquisition of functional communicative behavior beyond “words.” I will argue that for the autistic children functioning in a multilingual household, bilingualism is not a matter of choice but a necessary component of intervention in order for them to acquire communicative, socio-cultural, and pragmatic skills, lack of which characterizes their disorder.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh