Topics in Constraint-Based Grammar of Japanese (Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy)

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Ivan Sag sat in on one of my Linguistic Institute classes at MIT , and he told me that he thought that my proposals for functional -adaptive explanations of universals were quite compatible with his HPSG-oriented view of the world. But this confusing usage is still spreading. Geoff Pullum would not be impressed, and I think that this paper is typical of the view of the younger generation who simply does not know anymore what algebraic formalization is.

The post meaning shift was a confusing development. Unfortunately, linguistics is often confusing — for scholars within the field of linguistics, and of course even more for scientists in other disciplines.

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More Posts. So Montague Grammar is in, in spite of disagreeing with Chomsky on all of these issues. Old school Montague also raises the issue of formalization by means of notation vs being mathematical; the type system was formalized as a notation, but the rules were written in mathematicalese. This seemed to work for smallish fragments of English, but looks worse as they get bigger e.


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For whatever reason, people seem to have stopped trying to pursue this approach. The possibility of attaching Formal Semantics to various kinds of Generative Syntax is an illustration of this, since FS comes from a background where the full suite of Chomskyan assumptions are not accepted. Martin has pointed out a very good point. The same idea has been continuously advocated in China by a small group of young linguists, most of which have backgrounds or interests in maths, logic and computation. Formal linguistics is not formal. What a sarcasm. Chomsky, Noam. I never understood this.

Whyt I do understand, however, is the idea of an innate universal grammar — the idea that linguistic categories and architectures are given in advance, before any language learning. Montague and Partee were where I would send the interested novice. The picture then was that Chomsky had demonstrated mathematically that Context-Free Phrase Structure Grammars, production systems deriving from the work of Post, were incapable in principle of producing generating all and only the sentences of a natural language e. Postal had then, in his Constituent Structure Monograph, demonstrated that all of the available Structuralist theories of morphosyntax were equivalent to Phrase Structure Grammars, and thus that none of these could provide an adequate theory of language.

Some additional generative power was needed, and that was what Transformations provided. That was why we were interested in exploring the formal properties of a theory of Transformational Grammar. Indeed, it was the impression of mathematical rigor that came from the association with formal language theory that drew many of us to the field as it was developing at MIT at the time. Actually, my own first teachers in the field , apart from McCawley, were a radically un-reconstructed structuralist William M.

By Keith Brown and Jim Miller

This grounding in Formal Language theory did indeed fade into the rear-view mirror over time. Your email address will not be published.


  1. Noam Chomsky?
  2. How formal linguistics appeared and disappeared from the scene.
  3. References?
  4. Linguistic performance!
  5. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. It turns out that the term has a fascinating history , and over the last six decades, it has meant two very different things: 1 c. References Chomsky, Noam A. They seem to know much more than they have been taught—or even could be taught. Such knowledge, therefore, must be innate in some sense. To say it is innate, however, is not to say that the child is conscious of it or even that it exists, fully formed, at birth. It has frequently been observed that children acquire both concepts and language with amazing facility and speed, despite the paucity or even absence of meaningful evidence and instruction in their early years.

    Although ingenious, this approach was cumbersome in comparison with later theories, in part because it was not clear exactly what procedures would have to be involved in the construction and evaluation of grammars. Parameters , also native though not necessarily specific to language, perhaps figuring elsewhere too , are options that allow for variation in linguistic structure.

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    How formal linguistics appeared and disappeared from the scene | Diversity Linguistics Comment

    One proposed principle, for example, is that phrase structure must consist of a head, such as a noun or a verb, and a complement, which can be a phrase of any form. They are usually set early in development—apparently within a few days—and they must be set before the child becomes too old if he is to be able to pronounce the language without an accent. This time limit on phonological parameter setting would explain why second-language learners rarely, if ever, sound like native speakers. In contrast, young children exposed to any number of additional languages before the time limit is reached have no trouble producing the relevant sounds.

    In contrast to the syntactic and phonological features of language, the basic features out of which lexically expressed concepts and larger units of linguistic meaning are constructed do not appear to be parameterized: different natural languages seem to rely on the same set. This is indicated, as noted above, by the extraordinary rate at which children acquire lexical concepts about one per waking hour between the ages of two and eight and the rich knowledge that each concept and its verbal, nominal , adverbial, and other variants provide. No training or conscious intervention plays a role; lexical acquisition seems to be as automatic as parameter setting.

    Children’s Acquisition of Syntactic Knowledge

    Of course, people differ in the words contained in their vocabularies and in the particular sounds they happen to associate with different concepts. Early in the 20th century, the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure noted that there is nothing natural or necessary about the specific sounds with which a concept may be associated in a given language. A developed theory of UG and of relevant nonlinguistic systems would in principle account for all possible linguistic sounds and all possible lexical concepts and linguistic meanings, for it would contain all possible phonological and semantic features and all the rules and constraints for combining phonological and semantic features into words and for combining words into a potentially infinite number of phrases and sentences.

    Of course, such a complete theory may never be fully achieved, but in this respect linguistics is no worse off than physics , chemistry , or any other science.