Like dishwashing detergents, all analogies are not the same

a commentary on Ambridge (2020)

Loes Koring, Iain Giblin, Rosalind Thornton*, Stephen Crain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This response argues against the proposal that novel utterances are formed by analogy with stored exemplars that are close in meaning. Strings of words that are similar in meaning or even identical can behave very differently once inserted into different syntactic environments. Furthermore, phrases with similar meanings but different underlying syntactic structures can give rise to disparities in meaning in particular contexts. In short, analogy falls short of explaining both adult knowledge of language and children’s syntactic development.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalFirst Language
Early online date6 Feb 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Feb 2020


  • Analogy
  • formal linguistics
  • hierarchical structure
  • linguistic principles
  • Universal Grammar

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