LINGUIST List 3.395

Tue 12 May 1992

Disc: Rules

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  1. Martti Arnold Nyman, On rules
  2. , Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar
  3. , Rules

Message 1: On rules

Date: Wed, 6 May 1992 11:18 EET On rules
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet>
Subject: On rules

Re Guido Vanden Wyngaerd (3-357):

I must break my longish silence caused by a few urgent jobs:

> since Nyman doesn't seem to begin to understand
> what the problem is here, let me expand on my question once more: we find
> that speakers *observe* (not violate) the wh-island constraint; we find
> that they form yes-no questions by having recourse to hierarchical
> structure rather than linear precedence, i.e. they unfailingly produce (1a)
> rather than (1b):
>
> (1) a Is [the man who is tall] __ in the room?
> b Is [the man who __ tall] is in the room?

I must admit my dull-wittedness. Sorry about that! I also agree that
a real issue is involved here.

> If speakers proceeded on the basis of inductive generalisation or analogy
> or some such principle, one would expect a more or less random distribution
> over (1a) and (1b) in the acquisition stage, quod non.

Why would a more or less random distribution over (1a) and (1b) be
expectable in the acquisition stage, if speakers unfailingly -- and so,
as the only pattern for children to base inductive generalizations on --
produce (1a)?

> Hence speakers
> possess a certain knowledge or follow certian rules, and one would like to
> know where they get this knowledge from.

Are you suggesting Chomskyan "tacit" knowledge? If so, then you might
think that rules grow in people's minds like biological organs.

> The question now is: how can one tell if rules speakers
> follow, such as the wh-island rule or the yes-no question formation rule,
> are Grules or Lrules?

Where does the conviction come from that speakers "follow" the
wh-island rule? This rule, as formulated and so named by a grammarian,
is clearly a theoretical generalization (Grule). Notice that the
phenomenon here captured in insular terms is in principle amenable to
a different theoretical formulation: e.g., in Dick Hudson's Word Grammar
(_English_Word_Grammar_. Oxford 1990), which is a dependency-based
approach, (1b) would be ruled out by the fact that it infringes the
Adjacency Principle (not to be confused with GB's Adjacency).
 While it is grammatically correct to say
 (2a) Is the man who is tall in the room?,
it would be grammatically incorrect (and nonsensical) to say
 (2b) *Is the man who tall is in the room?
In my terminology, (2a-b) are technically rule-sentences which exemplify
(and witness for the existence) of the corresponding norm of language
(Lrule). It is typical of norms that they may be violated by mistake or
by joke (cf. Alexis Manaster Ramer's [3-371] posting on _man_the_ as
a [putatively] possible NP); sometimes also by force, in order to
bring home a theoretical point [e.g. (1b) above].
 Lrules (or norms-of-language qua institutional or cultural facts)
are typically learned or acquired by experience. But some norms are
so deeply rooted in human nature that their violation is more or less
unnatural and requires an extra effort. (This is one of the basic tenets
of Stampean natural phonology, unless I'm mistaken.) For example,
anyone standing on two hands (instead of two legs) in a cocktail party
would certainly violate a norm of socially correct behaviour. In this
case, the 'two-leg' constraint is almost vacuously a norm, because it
would be hard to violate it. In the same vein, the Lrule of which (2a) is
an exemplification, is almost vacuously a norm, because only a linguistic
professional could violate it by producing (2b). But it is a norm,
nonetheless.

> And what merit is there to making such a distinction
> at all?

This distinction is (meta)descriptive of generative grammarians' actual
practice.

Martti Nyman, Dept of General Linguistics, Univ of Helsinki, Finland

 the "General
Introduction guide", which you can retrieve by sending an "INFO GENINTRO"
command to LISTSERVTAMVM1.

Virtually,

 The LISTSERV management
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Message 2: Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar

Date: Thu, 7 May 1992 10:25 MST Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar
From: <BROSENBECCIT.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar

In response to Eric Schiller's comments on modern Syntax, I have a few
questions and comentaries.
 As a graduate student myself I find that modern syntax has strayed so far
into the theoretical realms of the ivory tower, that I am hesitant to delve
into it. Every two or three days there is another "universal" proposal that is
proposed by someone only to be found untrue by someone else. I don't think the
only end goal of grammatical theory is to explain why language functions as it
does, for me, explanatory adequacy can be the formulation of rules that
facilitate the teaching of language, albeit imperfect rules in a strictly
scientific sense (are we still worried how "scientific we appear?) but rules
that have some practical application.
 The notion of economy is a good one, as a student I would certainly
appreciate less "model" and more substance!
P.S. I hope I have'nt stuck my foot in my mouth, it's just that I am about to
start my doctorate and am faced with the question of my specialization, I like
Syntax but want to do something more "hands on" like sociallinguistics....
Brett Rosenberg
Dept. Spanish and Portuguese
Univ. of Arizona
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Message 3: Rules

Date: Mon, 11 May 92 11:42:16 EDRules
From: <Wijngaerd%DIA%CC3cc3.kuleuven.ac.be>
Subject: Rules

3.387 Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet> writes:

>> (1) a Is [the man who is tall] __ in the room?
>> b Is [the man who __ tall] is in the room?
>>
>> If speakers proceeded on the basis of inductive generalisation or
analogy
>> or some such principle, one would expect a more or less random
distribution
>> over (1a) and (1b) in the acquisition stage, quod non.
>
> Why would a more or less random distribution over (1a) and (1b) be
> expectable in the acquisition stage, if speakers unfailingly -- and so,
> as the only pattern for children to base inductive generalizations on --
> produce (1a)?

The assumption implicit in Nyman's question is that children only
produce what they hear. This is plainly incorrect. Children do not hear
forms like "buyed", "eated", or "goed", yet they all go through a stage
where they produce these forms. This can only be because they make
generalisations (rules, if you like), which go beyond what they hear. Now
given that the main source of evidence on yes-no questions at the child's
disposal will overwhelmingly consist of simple sentences of the form "Is
the man __ in the room", the child could make the generalisation either
in way: in terms of linear precedence ("front the first finite verb",
yielding (1b)) or in terms of hierarchical structure ("front the finite verb
which follows the subject", yielding (1a)). The fact that children do not
make mistakes in this respect (ie do not form (1b)) clearly shows that
the rule is not one learned by experience, the relevant experience not
being rich enough to determine the nature of the rule and not being
able to explain the absence of mistakes.
 As far as the rest of Nyman's remarks is concerned, I still fail to
see how and why they motivate a distinction between Grules and Lrules:
in his opinion, the rule exemplified by (1) is an Lrule, and the wh-island
rule a Grule. I cannot make out any argument in his posting that would
lend credibility to such a contrast.

G. Vanden Wyngaerd
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