Hierarchical and sequential processing of language

A response to Ding, Melloni, Tian, and Poeppel (2017)

Stefan L. Frank and Morten H. Christiansen

Abstract

Ding et al. (2017) contrast their view that language processing is based on hierarchical syntactic structures, to a view that relies on word-level input statistics. In this response to their paper, we clarify how, exactly, the two views differ (and how they do not), and make a case for the importance of sequential, as opposed to hierarchical, structure for language processing.

Keywords: hierarchical structure, sequential structure, language statistics, abstraction and generalization