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Temas em Psicologia

Print version ISSN 1413-389X


PASSOS, Maria de Lourdes R. da F.. Skinner's definition of verbal behavior and the arbitrariness of the linguistic signal. Temas psicol. [online]. 2007, vol.15, n.2, pp.269-282. ISSN 1413-389X.

The linguistic concept of the arbitrariness of the linguistic signal is at the center of Skinner's definition of verbal behavior. The role of the conventions of the verbal community, instead of mechanical and geometrical principles, in establishing the contingent relation between the verbal response and its consequences constitutes the crucial distinction between verbal and non-verbal behavior. A change of emphasis on the elements in the definition of verbal behavior from the agent of reinforcement, the listener, to the criterion for reinforcement, the conventions of the verbal community, is advocated. The concept of the arbitrariness of language has its origins in ancient Greek philosophy and was kept alive through an uninterrupted tradition that reached linguistics. Skinner's formulation of verbal behavior was influenced by that tradition, especially in the version presented by the linguist Leonard Bloomfield.

Keywords : Definition of verbal behavior; Distinction between verbal/non-verbal behavior; Arbitrariness of the linguistic signal; Skinner; Bloomfield.

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