Replied by Sundberg & Michael (1983). A response to U. T. Place.
Place, U. T. (1981b). Skinner's Verbal Behavior II - what is wrong with it. Behaviorism, 9, 131-152.
Skinner's Verbal Behavior as it stands suffers from four major defects. (1) Skinner fails to do justice to the distinction between words which are the repeated and repeatable units of verbal behaviour, but which have a function only in so far as they contribute to the function of the sentences in which they occur, and the sentences themselves which are the functional units of verbal behaviour, but which are seldom repeated word for word either in the mouth of the speaker or in the hearing of the listener. (2) The account given by Skinner of the listener's response to the verbal operant and of the concept of "the discriminative stimulus" which he deploys in this connection is seriously inadequate. (3) Skinner's concept of "the tact" involves a confusion between tacts as words and tacts as sentences. Tacts as words, i.e. names and general terms, designate recurrent features of the common stimulus environment of speaker and listener, both general and particular and contrast with autoclitic words whose function is purely intra-sentential. Tacts as sentences on the other hand are functionally complete verbal operants corresponding to the grammatical concept of an assertion, which act for the benefit of the listener and contrast with mands, sentence utterances corresponding to the imperatives and interrogatives of grammar and logic, which typically act for the benefit of the speaker. (4) Skinner's account fails to do justice to the all-important logical distinction between those tact sentence utterances or assertions which are true and on which the listener can consequently rely and those which are false and therefore unreliable as a source of information from the standpoint of the listener.
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