Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Why behavior should matter to linguists

A. Charles Catania a1
a1 Department of Psychology, University of Maryland at Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD 21250


Jackendoff's Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution has many points of similarity with Skinner's analysis of verbal behavior, though the former emphasizes structure whereas the latter emphasizes function. The parallels are explored in the context of a selectionist account of behavior in general and of verbal behavior in particular. Part of the argument is that behavior drives evolution and therefore also drives brain organization. Another concerns itself with the nature of explanation. Recent experimental developments in behavior analysis are reviewed as potential contributions to an understanding of language that incorporates its functional as well as structural dimensions.