LINGUIST List 3.409

Fri 15 May 1992

Disc: Rules

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  1. Rick Wojcik, Re: 3.395 Rules
  2. Tibor Kiss, Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar

Message 1: Re: 3.395 Rules

Date: Tue, 12 May 92 08:26:12 PDRe: 3.395 Rules
From: Rick Wojcik <>
Subject: Re: 3.395 Rules

Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet> writes:

> 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...

As one who likes Stampean Natural Phonology, I find the 'two-leg' constraint
an amusing analogy to the way many linguists formulate their analyses. But
I wouldn't want people to get the idea that Natural Phonology takes experience
to be the sole factor in language acquisition. Quite the opposite, Stampe
has always viewed processes as 'innate' in a biological (vs. Cartesian)
sense. That is, phonological processes don't exist as ideas in the head of
the infant at birth. They develop automatically through exposure to environ-
mental triggers. It is conceivable that a human born with a deformed vocal
tract develops a somewhat different set of processes than one born with a
normal tract. Nevertheless, the vast majority of humans possess the same set
of 'innate' processes because they all come to life with the same auditory
and vocal equipment. Thus, they all have to suppress or modify the same set
of processes to achieve mature pronunciation. Stampe called morphonological
Rules 'learned' because they could only be acquired by observing phonemic
alternations. What one 'learns' about Processes is how to prevent them from
messing up desired pronunciations. One does not need to observe alternations
in order to learn how to pronounce things correctly. You just try to say the

 I'm not sure whether this really contradicts what Martti said, but
I am a little confused by all his references to 'norms'. I see nothing
contradictory in describing linguistic systems from two points of view:
social or psychological. I would tend to use terms like 'norm', 'cultural
fact', 'institutional', etc., when talking about the role of language in
society. I find it more difficult to use those terms when describing rules
that control linguistic behavior. Natural Phonology is not a generative
theory, but, like generativism, it is grounded in psychological function.

				Rick Wojcik (
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Message 2: Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar

Date: Wed, 13 May 92 14:47:11 CSRe: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar
Subject: Re: 3.387 Rules, Tone Grammar

I agree to Eric Schillers recent posting on rules. I think that many
of the problems he addressed (useful but defunct grammars etc.) have
to do with the fact that progress in contemporary theoretical linguistics
can be compared with progress in modern pop music. There is actually no
progress in pop music but instead one fashionable tendency alternates
with another (and what's here today may be gone tomorrow, good buy
projection principle.)
This wouldn't be a real problem for linguistics if all theories were
equally good at describing the data, but unfortunately, the parallelism
extends to the data as well. Moreover, it is often the case that
linguists start to construct a set of fashionable data their theories
can comply with.

Tibor Kiss
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