LINGUIST List 15.3342

Tue Nov 30 2004

Disc: Final Posting: Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

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        1.    Thomas Hoffmann, Re: 15.3231, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP
        2.    Ahmad Reza Lotfi, RE: 15.3318, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

Message 1: Re: 15.3231, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

Date: 29-Nov-2004
From: Thomas Hoffmann <>
Subject: Re: 15.3231, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

Philip Carr's note 
actually raises a few interesting questions: 
If one adopts a computational theory of mind, how can one avoid postulating 
mental processes/operations? 
I fully agree with that. If, as assumed , e.g., in the Minimalist Program 
(Chomsky 1995) syntax is considered an optimal solution to interface 
conditions (i.e. constraints imposed by the Conceptual-Intentional and the 
Articulatory-Perceptual systems), then all postulated syntactic 
steps are interpreted as mental processes/operations. 
Now, I'm a theoretical linguist and would gladly be corrected by psycho- 
and neurolinguists, but the way I see it, we nevertheless have the same 
problems as in the 1960s/1970s: 
1. How can we measure the number/complexity of mental processes? 
Philip Carr mentions the ill-fated Derivational Theory of Complexity 
(DCT) which assumed that postulated analyses were taken to be analyses of 
on-line mental operations . As Fodor et al (1974) showed, experimental data 
seemed to undermine the DCT. 
One problem, e.g., was that sentences apparently involving more 
transformations sometimes turned out to be easier to process: in the 
Standard Theory adjectives in a pre-modifier function such as 'the 
small cat' were sometimes supposed to be derived from underlying relative 
clauses, i.e. the cat which is small (cf. Fodor et al 1974: 327). 
Note first of all, that a lot of the sentences considered more complex in 
the Standard Theory would receive a much simpler Minimalist analysis 
(direct merger of Adj in pre-modifier position, no underlying relative 
clause). So I think looking at the results of the 1960s/1970s experiments 
and reinterpreting from a Minimalist perspective might actually yield a few 
interesting results. [For the Minimalist junkies out there: this might not 
be easy as I first thought. Chomsky (2000) e.g. claims that long-distance 
AGREE is simpler than MOVE, which actually is COPY+MERGE+AGREE. If we just 
look at syntax this might suggest that AGREE should be less complex than 
MOVE. Yet, I wonder whether long-distance AGREE isn t more complex for LF 
since it involves another PROBE-GOAL search whereas identifying copies of 
moved elements might be easier.] 
However, another point is that the human parser might use non-grammar 
information in addition to grammar, i.e. some kind of heuristic principle 
(cf. Fodor et al 1974; and as far as I know there are still enough 
psycholinguists out there subscribing to this hypothesis but feel free to 
correct me if I'm wrong). So is there a parser that doesn't just 
use grammatical info and if so, how can we disambiguate the influence of 
2. What are the predictions towards grammatical complexity and mental work 
load in other theories? 
Take e.g. the latest grammatical theory: 
Construction Grammar (cf. Fillmore and Kay 1999; Goldberg 2003). In 
Fillmore and Kay's (1999; also in Goldberg's 2003) version of Construction 
Grammar a sentence can also be the combination/parallel activation of a 
number of constructions. 
So Goldberg, e.g., considers 'What did Liza buy the child' to consist of 6 
types of constructions: 1)the six lexical items, 2) the ditransitive 
constructions, 3) the question construction, 4) the Subj-Aux inversion 
construction, 5) the VP construction and 6) three NP construction (2003: 
Has anyone ever thought about testing whether an increased number of 
constructions leads to greater computational work load? 
3. And what about neuronal activity? As far as I can see a lot of the 1960 
s/1970s studies showed that allegedly higher complexity didn't result in 
prolonged comprehension time. But what about increased neuronal activity? 
Has anyone so far carried out an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance 
imaging) study on increased neuronal network activation as an effect of 
syntactic complexity? And if so, do these studies also contrast production 
and processing of sentences? 
Best wishes, 
Thomas Hoffmann 
Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, 
Mass.: MIT Press. 
Chomsky, Noam. 2000. Minimalist inquiries: the 
framework . In: David Michaels, Roger Martin and 
Juan Uriagereka, eds.. Step by Step: Essays on 
Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik. 
Cambridge,Massachusetts: MIT Press.89 155. 
Kay, Paul & Charles J. Fillmore. 1999. Grammatical 
constructions and linguistic generalizations: The 
What s X doing Y? construction . Language 75,1: 1- 
Fodor, J. A., T.G. Bever and M.F. Garrett. 1974. The 
Psychology of Language: An Introduction to 
Psycholinguistics and Generative Grammar. New York: 
McGraw-Hill. [cf. esp. 318ff.] 
Goldberg, A. E. 2003. Constructions: a new 
theoretical approach to language TRENDS in 
Cognitive Sciences 7,5: 219-224. 
Jackendoff, R. 2002. Foundations of Language: Brain, 
Meaning, Grammar, Evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
Thomas hoffmann 
Department of English and American Studies 
English Linguistics 
PT 3.2.79 
University of Regensburg 
Universit├Ątsstra├če 31 
D-93053 Regensburg 

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories

Message 2: RE: 15.3318, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

Date: 29-Nov-2004
From: Ahmad Reza Lotfi <>
Subject: RE: 15.3318, Disc: Deep Structure/Initial PP

Dear linguists, 
Philip Carr> wrote: 
>Ahmad Lofti's points (Linguist 15.3303) are interesting. We see here an 
>attempt to sustain a process-based interpretation of 'psychological 
>realism', but defined in terms of parallelism, rather than sequential 
>mental operations. 
>But it's still a process-based approach, and I find it hard to see how 
>that can fit with the idea that one is attempting to characterise 
>(Chomskyan) mental *states* ('knowledge'), as opposed to *processes* ('use 
>of knowledge'). 
>One might think that declarative frameworks would be better suited to 
>characterising static mental states, rather than mental activities, but 
>even with declarative approaches, one sees appeal (implicit or otherwise) 
>to the idea of processes (such as structure-building). 
Although it may sound too radical (if not absurd!) to some readers, I find 
the division of the world into its states and processes rather artificial 
(though prhaps still legitimate given man's limitations in understanding 
what's going on around/within him): As the world is in permanent motion and 
change, it's only the human mind that takes one snapshot out of a process 
and terms it a state; a single slide taken away from the film in progress 
on the screen for scrutiny. What Chomsky does in characterising mental 
states (knowledge of language) is to make this real-time mental process 
stand still momentarily in order to see what's going on there. It's a 
forced move on the scientist's part to make sense of the reality, but not 
the reality itself. 
While Chomsky has never claimed his theories to be those of mental 
processing/performance but of mental states/competence, the very 
terminology he's always employed since ST through GB and finally in MP 
strongly suggests he's well aware of the potentialities of his competence 
model in paving the way to afford a performance model embracing mental 
processing. Given the existing gap between competence and performance(= one 
between states and processes), which is due to (a) the complexity of the 
world, and (b) our present limitations in seeing what's in the flow rather 
in a frame-by-frame presentation of the process, we might decide to 
approach Chomskyan ideas cautiously once in the realm of psychological 
processing. This does not mean, however, that the potentialities of 
generative models should be left unexplored. 
Ahmad R. Lotfi 
Assistant Professor of linguistics, 
Chair of English dept. 
Graduate School 
Azad University at Khorasgan (IRAN)

Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories

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