LINGUIST List 12.1844

Tue Jul 17 2001

Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Editor for this issue: Lydia Grebenyova <lydialinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Dan Everett, Re: 12.1824, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study
  2. Thomas McFadden, Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study
  3. Jonathan Centner, Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Message 1: Re: 12.1824, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 18:00:35 -0500
From: Dan Everett <Dan.Everettman.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: 12.1824, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

> Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2001 10:16:19 -0400
> From: Whitney Anne Postman <wap2cornell.edu>
> Subject: Re: 12.1819, Disc: Nonobjects of Syntactic Study
>
> My first question is, If language does not originate in our brains,
> then where? To head off a particular vein of criticism with which
> I've been confronted before, let me state that I assume that the idea
> that language is a part of human biology is not in the least bit in
> conflict with the idea that language is also part of human culture.
> Why should these two notions (beliefs?) be mutually exclusive?

They need not conflict, but they are not both necessary. Where does math
originate? Is it in the human brain? Or is it in a Platonic universe? Or is
it just an 'emergent property' of the brain, based on our overall
neurological limitations? Is there something required of the brain to
produce language in Homo sapiens sapiens? Well, probably (though
undergraduate conversations often tend to disabuse one of this notion). But
does that mean that language is a distinct part of the brain? No. The
question of where language originates is not one to ask in this context.

>
> Goldsmith also wrote: "it is (even more) controversial that
> linguistics is a scientific theory of something that is in the brain."
> As someone who's investigated acquired aphasia (=language impairment
> due to brain damage) firsthand, in particular the very real phenomena
> of agrammatic production and comprehension of language (Standard
> Indonesian, in my studies), I fail to see what is (even more)
> controversial here.
>

Again, language is controlled by the brain. Sure. But there still aren't
going to be tree structures in CAT scans. Whatever it is that is in the
brain, we don't know much about it yet, and UG is probably not its name. In
fact, if what I have already said convinces you, it canNOT be UG.

Dan Everett
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 21:13:32 -0400 (EDT)
From: Thomas McFadden <tmcfaddebabel.ling.upenn.edu>
Subject: Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

> UG makes claims that go far beyond the claims of other disciplines. For
> example, Chomsky claims that language is a perfect biological system.
[snip]
> 
> Dan Everett
> 

I don't think this is correct. The relevant idea of the MP is not that
language actually IS a perfect biological system, but that it might be
profitable to begin with the assumption that it is, and then to identify
places where that assumption leads to incorrect results. Again, this may
or may not be the right way of going about things, but it isn't quite as
radical as your interpretation of it. In any case, the idea is
peculiar to certain versions of Minimalism, and is not implied by the
assumption of UG, thus could count as an argument against the former,
but not the latter.

Tom McFadden
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Date: Mon, 16 Jul 2001 21:50:08 -0400
From: Jonathan Centner <tnermail.hamptons.com>
Subject: Re: 12.1823, Disc: On Nonobjects of Syntactic Study

Dan:

My impression from the various researchers in on this is that a syntax
driven model is able to account for more than was previously thought it was
possible to. Like copy intonation, among a few examples, with respect to
optimality with delete and ellipsis.

On first impression it seems an outside "use" of language which formerly
was off-scope, but now is possibly within striking distance of a minimalist
explanation. Chomsky may have been circumscriptive about the phenomena he
sought an account for, but it seems to me he may have underestimated the
power of his research program.

Jonathan Centner


> How could one study it? One would have
>to sort through the data and decide that this or that datum is not a result
>of function, history, or sociological factors (among others). Then that
>datum would bear on UG. It is not possible to make that decision, however.
>UG is an essence. Its essence is partially derived from the layers of other
>material constructed around it (LF, PF, etc.) and being in principle more
>and more reifiable until we arrive at the essence of grammar.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue