The Analysis of Verbal Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 77–88 | Cite as

Comments on Skinner’s grammar

  • John H. Mabry


The strong tradition of “school room” grammars may have had a negative influence on the reception given a functional analysis of verbal behavior, both within and without the field of behavior analysis. Some of the failings of those traditional grammars, and their largely prescriptive nature were outlined through reference to other critics, and conflicting views. Skinner’s own treatment of grammatical issues was presented, emphasizing his view of a functional unit and his use of the autoclitic and intraverbal functions to describe alternatives to a formal or structural analysis. Finally, the relevance of stimulus control variables to some recurring questions about verbal behavior and, specifically grammar, were mentioned.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baer, D. M., amp; Guess, D. (1971). Receptive training of adjectival inflections in mental retardates. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 4, 129–139.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Bickle, W. K., amp; Etzel, B. C. (1985). The quantal nature of controlling stimulus-response relations as measured in tests of stimulus generalization. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 44, 245–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bloom, L. (1970). Language development: Form and function in emerging grammars. Cambridge, Mass., M.I.T. Press.Google Scholar
  4. Braine, M. D. S. (1963a). The ontogeny of English phrase structure: The first phase. Language, 1963, 39, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Braine, M. D. S. (1963b). On learning the grammatical order of words. Psychological Review, 70, 323–348.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Braine, M. D. S. (1987). What is learned in acquiring word classes-A step toward an acquisition theory in, B. MacWhinney (Ed.) Mechanisms of language acquisition (pp. 65–87), Hillsdale. NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, R., amp; Fraser, C. (1963). The acquisition of syntax. In C. N. Cofer and B. Musgrave, (Eds.), Verbal behavior and learning: Problems and processes (pp. 158–201). New York: McGraw-Hill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chomsky, N. (1957). Syntactic structures. The Hague: Mouton and Co.Google Scholar
  10. Chomsky, N. (1959). Verbal Behavior. By B.F. Skinner. Language, 35, 26–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chomsky, N. (1965). Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Crystal, D. (1971). Linguistics. Middlesex, Harmondsworth, England; Penguin Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  13. Crystal, D. (1985). A Dictionary of linguistics and phonetics, Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, Ltd.Google Scholar
  14. Crystal, D. (1987). The Cambridge encyclopedia of language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Ervin, S. M. (1964). Imitation and structural change in children’s language. In E. G. Lenneberg, (Ed.), New directions in the study of language (pp. 163–189). Cambridge, MA: MIT. Press.Google Scholar
  16. Esper, E. A. (1973). Analogy and association in linguistics and psychology. Charlotte, NC: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  17. Fields, L., Adams, B. J., Verhave, T., amp; Newman, S. (1990). The effects of nodality on the formation of equivalence classes. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 53, 345–358.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  18. Fodor, J. A., amp; Katz, J.J. (1964). The structure of language: Readings in the philosophy of language. Englewood Clifts, N.J. Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  19. Garcia, E., Baer, D. M., amp; Firestone, I. (1971).The development of generalized imitation within topographically determined boundries. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 4, 101–112.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Guess D., Sailor, W. S., Rutherford, G., amp; Baer, D. M. (1968). An experimental analysis of linguistic development: the productive use of the plural morpheme. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1, 297–306.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  21. Hefferline, R. (1947). Class notes made by R. Hefferline, Summer 1947, in a course at Columbia University, given by B.F. Skinner. Privately circulated. Hockett, C. F. (1958). A course in modern linguistics. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  22. Jespersen, O. (1922). Language, its nature, development and origin. The Norton Library edition (1964), New York: W.W. Norton Co., Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Kluckhohn, C., amp; Leighton, D. (1974). The Navaho, Revised Edition Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Laird, C. (1957). The miracle of language. Greenwich, Connecticut: Fawcett Publications.Google Scholar
  25. Lempert, H. (1984). Topic as starting point for syntax. With commentary by Brian MacWhinney. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Developement, 49 (5, Serial No. 208).Google Scholar
  26. Li, C. N., amp; Thompson, S. A. (1981). Mandarin Chinese: A functional reference grammar. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lyons, J. (1977). Chomsky. (2nd. Ed.) 2 Stanford Terrace, Hassocks, Sussex: The Harvester Press.Google Scholar
  28. MacCorquodale, K. (1970). On Chomsky’s review of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 13, 83–99.CrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  29. MacWhinney, B., amp; Bates, E. (1989). The crosslinguistic study of sentence processing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Maratsos, M. P., amp; Chalkey, M. A. (1980). The internal language of children’s syntax: The ontogenesis and representation of syntactic categories. In Keith Nelson (Ed.), Children’s Language (Vol.2) (pp. 127–214), New York: Gardner Press.Google Scholar
  31. Marcus, G. F., Pinker, S., Ullman, M., Hollander, M., Rosen, T. J., amp; Xu, F. (1992). Overregularization in language acquistion, with commentary by Harold Clahsen. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57 (4, Serial No. 228)Google Scholar
  32. Place, U. T. (1981). Skinner’s Verbal behavior II, what is wrong with it. Behaviorism, 9, 131–152.Google Scholar
  33. Potter, S. (1971). Word creation. In C. Laird amp; R. M. Gorrell, (Eds.) Reading about language. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich, Inc.Google Scholar
  34. Poulson, C. L., Andreatos, M., Kyparissos, N., amp; Kymissis, E. (1993, May). Generalized imitation within three response classes in normally developing infants. Paper read at the Association for Behavior Analysis 19th Annual Convention, Chigago, Ill.Google Scholar
  35. Robbins, R. H. (1967). A short history of linguistics. London: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sailor, W. (1971). Reinforcement and generalization of productive plural allomorphs in two retarded children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 4, 305–310.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  37. Sapir, E. (1921). Language: An introduction to the study of speech, New York: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  38. Skinner, B. F. (1957). Verbal behavior. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Slobin, D. I. (1974). Psycholinguistics. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Company.Google Scholar
  40. Stemmer, N. (1990). Skinner’s Verbal Behavior, Chomsky’s review, and mentalism. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 54, 307–315.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Whorf, B. L. (1956). Language, thought, and reality: Selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited with an introduction by John B. Carroll. New York: The Technology Press of M.I.T. and John Wiley and Sons, Inc.Google Scholar
  42. Young, J. M., Poulson, C. L., Krantz, P.J., amp; McClannahan, L. E. (1993, May). The development of generalized imitation in young children with autism within topographically determined bounderies. Paper read at the Association for Behavior Analysis 19th Annual Convention, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association of Behavior Analysis International 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Mabry
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology CB #3270University of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

Personalised recommendations