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Anal Verbal Behav. 2008;24:31-54.

A behavior analytic analogue of learning to use synonyms, syntax, and parts of speech.

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  • 1West Virginia University.


Matching-to-sample and sequence training procedures were used to develop responding to stimulus classes that were considered analogous to 3 aspects of verbal behavior: identifying synonyms and parts of speech, and using syntax. Matching-to-sample procedures were used to train 12 paired associates from among 24 stimuli. These pairs were analogous to synonyms. Then, sequence characteristics were trained to 6 of the stimuli. The result was the formation of 3 classes of 4 stimuli, with the classes controlling a sequence response analogous to a simple ordering syntax: first, second, and third. Matching-to-sample procedures were then used to add 4 stimuli to each class. These stimuli, without explicit sequence training, also began to control the same sequence responding as the other members of their class. Thus, three 8-member functionally equivalent sequence classes were formed. These classes were considered to be analogous to parts of speech. Further testing revealed three 8-member equivalence classes and 512 different sequences of first, second, and third. The study indicated that behavior analytic procedures may be used to produce some generative aspects of verbal behavior related to simple syntax and semantics.

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