Grupo de Pesquisa Interdisciplinar em Neurociências e Cognição da PUC-Rio

What Comes First, Theory or Data?

WhatsApp Image 2018 09 20 at 1.36.43 PM

Palestrante: Peter Ludlow

Data: 26/set

Horário: 16:30

Local: Sala 14 IAG / PUC-Rio

O Evento é gratuito. Não é necessária prévia inscrição.


Some linguists have argued that the traditional descriptive method in linguistics is preferable because it begins with the data and only then proceeds to theory construction. For example, Absalom and Hajek (1997: 177) claim that "the data needs to drive theoretical analysis and not the other way around." In still other cases linguists have claimed to dispense with the theory-construction portion altogether, arguing that the best way to proceed is to describe a language without any theoretical framework driving our investigation, for example Haspelmath (2010) in his defense of what he calls "framework-free" linguistics.

This quickly leads us to the question of what data is important and what relation it bears to theory choice. I'll argue that there is no atheoretical notion of best or most important data — whether data is interesting or important depends upon the theoretical questions that we are investigating and what the ultimate goal of our work is. If, for example, the goal is a reduction to basic science rather than taxonomy or natural language processing, what counts as valuable data will be quite different. Furthermore, I'll argue that data only really exists in the context of some theoretical framework, and thus claims of data-driven theorizing and atheoretical or framework-free data gathering needs to be viewed with some skepticism.


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