Dąbrowska (2010) claims that linguistic analyses that purely rely on linguists’ interpretation of the phenomenon in question come with an ‘observer bias’, i.e. “the possibility that judgments can be influenced by the observer’s beliefs and expectations” (Dąbrowska 2010: 2). Moreover, she points out that a linguist’s intuition may differ considerably from that of a non-linguist, due to the exposure the linguist may have had to a specific language phenomenon. Thus, as a first step towards including non-experts’ intuition in the analysis of grammatical phenomena, my research on English of-NPs (i.e. expressions such as the front of the house, a picture of my mother, that plonker of a plumber) tests its previously established categories of of-NPs against both expert and non-expert intuition. 174 participants took part in an online experiment, sorting 32 of-NPs into eight different categories to examine whether they would recreate my constructional categories. The results show that non-experts approach my constructional categories with idiosyncratic examples of of-NPs, but employ different strategies when sorting more frequent, core examples.
Expert and non-expert sorting strategies for core and idiosyncratic examples of English of-NPs