A Note on the Factorial Definition of Island Effects

Ilkyu Kim 1 ,
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1Kangwon National University
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ⓒ Copyright 2021 Language Education Institute, Seoul National University. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Jul 11, 2021 ; Revised: Aug 16, 2021 ; Accepted: Aug 30, 2021

Published Online: Aug 31, 2021


Sprouse’s (2007) factorial definition of island effects has been widely used in experimental research on island phenomena. The popularity it enjoys is mainly due to its ability to isolate and quantify island effects by controlling for two important processing factors known to affect the acceptability of island-violating constructions. Despite this and other merits, the factorial design has its limitations: 1) it does not control for other important non-syntactic factors and thus 2) it has little to say about the exact nature of island effects. Researchers employing the factorial design, however, often fail to consider these limitations, resulting in biased interpretations of the results of their experiments. This problem is inevitable unless one takes a balanced view on the source of island effects.

Keywords: experimental syntax; factorial definition of island effects; acceptability judgment; philosophy of linguistics



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