Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality


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TOC: STUF, Mon-Kmer Studies

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Grammatical Relations

The task is to reduce to a minimal set that can both explain and describe. It not what that paper says and not what the theory says. Sir Norbert the Surnameless says he mostly agrees with this post, but my understanding of the details gives out about two paragraphs in. Dear Martin: As someone has already said above, it seems that you are confusing FLN the potentially specifically human FLB component with UG, which is but part of the human genetic endowment that makes us able to learn and use any language.

But that is not serious. I guess you do not want to imply that Chomsky or someone else in the past claimed that the difference between a clitic and an affix has to do with the human genome or that there are genes that when activated produce languages with affixes … Affixes are undoubtedly not determined by UG, but they would be part of the theoretical universe of the generative grammarian even if it were confirmed that human beings are made of musical notes and not of cells, simply because they appear in languages.

The task of ordinary generative grammarians is not to determine which parts of the assumptions they use in their work are biologically determined it is necessary to wear a white coat for that , but the task of constructing theoretical models of the underlying structure of languages, and empirically falsifying those models. Nobody gives the ordinary grammarian a list of pre-established categories or no more than the functionalist grammarian , but the linguist constructs a theoretical model based on the data and properties of languages and formulates hypotheses about the principles that explain them ie, ordinary science.

Even though, as Hauser, Chomsky and Fitch suggest, FLN was an empty set, we would still need theories about what an adjective is, about where the direct object is in German, or about what is the difference between a clitic and an affix. Generative grammar is a branch of the science of language, not a creed based on the revelations of a guru.

I do indeed want to say that it has been claimed implicitly that the difference between an affix and a clitic has to do with the human genome though of course the differences between languages have nothing to do with gene activation, but with cultural differences. This assumption is not made by non-generativists, e. The minimalist perspective has been to minimise what is considered specific to language on the computational level, but that does not equal a minimal UG. Whether sth. But that only refers to the computational system i.

Grammatical Relations : The Evidence Against Their Necessity And Universality 1991

His current thought is very much in line with the main ideas driving the generative enterprise and with mainstream generative grammar. On the last quote, and your comment on it. It seems to me that Chomsky would contest also now that the primary function of language is communication. He has given many arguments for that in the past trying to show that some system aspect of language is bad for communication. This is what needs to be done in the most efficient way, with some computational measure of efficiency.

Only when Merge had spread through a community could it be used for communication, as some kind of secondary function. The next question then is how pairing sound and meaning would have a cognitive advantage. Strangely, this question is rarely discussed. This would then be the main difference between man and animal. I think that is at least an interesting thought. To my mind, there is no escape from the conclusion that human language is at least partly shaped by its use in communication. But my objection to a lot of functionalists work is that it takes a very simplified view of language, in that it assumes that communication sometimes even only the restricted form of communication that is transmission of thought is the only function.

I think we would all be better of if we understood that language has several functions and is somehow shaped by each of them. To the contrary, the discussion between those who are interested in cognitive views and those interested in functionalist which in phonology often means: phonetic views is much older in phonology, has always been much less polemical, and also more fruitful, leading most people to take a fairly nuanced view I think.


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The only extremists are those who would simply deny that there is anything like phonology at all, since we can explain everything by phonetics and the workings of diachrony; but as I said, the idea of a very rich UG has not been popular for a long time. One might interpret Prince and Smolensky in such a way because it poses a universal and innate set of constraints Con , but the doubling of the content of that set with certain phonetic findings was very soon recognized. I am not saying that the problem has been solved in a way that can boast consensus, but I think almost everybody is aware of it.

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You can look up a list of possibly innate, possibly universal phonological features on Wikipedia. There is nothing of that sort in morphosyntax, so it seems that the question should be equally controversial among syntacticians. And I agree with you of course that communication need not be the only function of language. Language s may have many functions. The question is not primarily which functions languages have, but what explains their properties, and it is clear that one cannot understand their properties without considering communication, I think.

Just a word about universal features in phonology. There do seem to be good typological generalizations, but nothing that needs to be seen as specifically linguistic AND innate.

So that even calls into question the idea that distinctive features are useful for describing phonologies in a comprehensive way. Really interesting. I realise interviews are tricky and respondents are not typically perfectly careful. But, it is difficult to misunderstand Chomsky, in the discussion pasted below, as saying anything except that he thinks the evolutionary leap forward was not necessarily a big one.

What is CONCEPTUAL SEMANTICS? What does CONCEPTUAL SEMANTICS mean?

If so, citing that would be useful to me, and perhaps other readers. The book I am citing has two parts, an older part from and a newer part from around , which is more recent. Q: Somehow the evolutionary leap which we are talking about seems to be quite a big one. Yet, the period of differential evolution has been comparatively short.

TOC: STUF, Mon-Kmer Studies

It just could be that much of it turns on that. We do not know, but that might reflect a small change in the brain. It could, for example, be a consequence of the increase in brain size or complexity.

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And if that system develops and links to a conceptual system, it really offers a total new world. For all we know that has happened once in the history of the universe. There is not particular reason to believe that it has happened elsewhere, so those possibilities and in fact even likelihoods make this a very important central issue…. So, I found that part of your post a bit confusing. In fact, I often find such discussions confusing, as people seem at least to me to be mixing up different concepts. Honestly, I think I am perhaps being a bit sloppy here too.

Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality
Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality
Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality
Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality
Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality
Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality Grammatical Relations: The Evidence Against Their Necessity and Universality

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