LINGUIST List 3.416

Wed 20 May 1992

Disc: Rules, Adjuncts

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Directory

  1. Joe Stemberger, Re: 3.395 Rules
  2. Martti Arnold Nyman, Rules, innateness, psychological reality
  3. Geoffrey Russom, Re: 3.408 Adjuncts
  4. "LLOYD HOLLIDAY, LA TROBE UNIV, EDUCATIOEDULHlure.latrobe.edu.au, Re: 3.408 Adjuncts
  5. Eric Schiller, Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

Message 1: Re: 3.395 Rules

Date: Mon, 18 May 92 15:23 CST
From: Joe Stemberger <STEMBERGER%ELLVAXvx.acs.umn.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.395 Rules

G. Vanden Wyngaerd writes:

>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?
>
> 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.

There are a number of interesting things about Wyngaerd's statement here.

1) Forms like "buyed", "goed", and "eated" may occur in child speech, but
they are in a minority. The vast majority of attempts at irregular verbs
are produced correctly. (Gary Marcus and his colleagues at MIT have a
monograph on this that is not yet out.) Children DO tend to produce what
they here, at least statistically.

2) The assumption is made, IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY DATA, that children rarely
hear adults produce sentences like (1a) above. This is an amazing claim,
and I doubt that it is true.

3) Even if it were true, Wyngaerd is making generalizations about learning
IN THE ABSENCE OF A THEORY OF LEARNING.

These last two things are unfortunately very common. Why do we think that
it's OK to say, "There's no data on this, but if there were, I'm sure it
would be X", and expect people to take it seriously? Or "I have no theory
of learning, but I'm sure that it wouldn't predict X"? I'm a phonologist,
and I haven't kept up with changes in syntactic theory, and I'm sure that I
wouldn't be allowed to get away with statements like "I have no reasonable
formal theory of syntax, but if I did, I'm sure that it couldn't accommodate
subj-aux inversion, so all theories of formal syntax must be wrong". But
this statement is no different in kind from the other ones.

One last statement implicit in much work in linguistics: "I have no theory
of genetics, ontogeny, or evolutionary biology, but I'm sure that if I did,
modern linguistic assumptions about innateness would fit in real well."

Maybe we should ask a bit more of ourselves that we often do.

---joe stemberger
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Message 2: Rules, innateness, psychological reality

Date: Wed, 20 May 1992 13:20 EETRules, innateness, psychological reality
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet>
Subject: Rules, innateness, psychological reality

Guido Vanden Wyngaerd (Vol-3-395) claims that the wh-island
constraint is innate. If it is innate, there is really nothing
to explain. To vindicate his claim, Wyngaerd purports to show
that cognitive principles such as analogy make false
predictions about how the structure of yes-no questions is
acquired: If it were acquired by analogy, one would expect
a more or less random distribution over (1a) and (1b):
 (1) a Is [the man who is tall] __ in the room?
 b *Is [the man who __ tall] is in the room?
As the reason for this distributional expectation Wyngaerd gives this:

> 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.

The above passage proves nothing. It would be interesting,
indeed, to hear psycholinguists' opinions about this kind of
conjectural psycholinguistics. Meanwhile, let me continue
conjecturing, for the sake of argument.
 That "the relevant experience [is not] rich enough to
determine the nature of the rule" echoes the well-known
'poverty of stimulus' argument, which has never been proven.
In the case at hand, it is easy to conjecture what sort of
data/experience is relevant for a child to infer that yes-no
questions are formed in terms of hierarchical structure.
Consider where-questions:

 Where is [X]? [X] is in Z. Is [X] in Z?
 ---------------------- = --------------------- = ---------------------
 Where is [X who is Y]? [X who is Y] is in Z. Is [X who is Y] in Z?

In principle, analogy works here quite well: the where-question
displays the hierarchy which can be analogically extended to other
cases. But I am not concerned with whether or not analogy works
in this particular case. What I am concerned with is, objecting to
wholesale innatism. Notice that this does not make me a _tabula_rasa_
proselyte. Certainly children possess innate cognitive principles
and abilities, but from this it does not follow that
human beings are necessarily endowed with a grammar as
a mental organ; nor does it follow that the cognitive
principles are linguistic or grammatical in nature.
 It should be clear from my earlier postings that I do not
hold that "children only produce what they hear". So, I concur
with Wyngaerd's view that

> 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
> generalizations (rules, if you like), which go beyond what they hear.

I expect Wyngaerd to concur with me that forms like "buyed", "eated", or
"goed" are due to analogy.

> 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 _Knowledge_of_Grammar_ (1986), Chomsky speaks of rules as follws:
"It might be appropriate to describe the way a sheep dog collects the flock,
or the way a spider spins a web, or the way a cockroach walks in terms of
rule following, with reference to underlying "competence" consisting of
rules of some sort ..." (239). If you think this is analogical to linguistic
behavior, you won't need recognize the conceptual distinction
between social norms-of-language (L-rules as objects of common knowledge)
and theoretical generalizations as formulated by a linguist (G-rules).
G(rammatical) rules need not be psychologically real, but if they are
supposed to be psychologically valid, this means that G-rules are
supposed to describe what the internalized rule must consist in; no one
knows how "brain rules" are represented (mentalese?).

Martti Nyman
Department of Linguistics, University of Helsinki, Finland
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Message 3: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

Date: Fri, 15 May 92 10:25:24 EDRe: 3.408 Adjuncts
From: Geoffrey Russom <EL403015brownvm.brown.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

On the use of "when" as equivalent to "that" in sentences like
"I remember the time when I first played golf" cf. the spatial
neighbor "where" in e.g. "I can't see my way clear to where I
could do that for you", or the mathematicians' usage ("where x
ranges over some entities ....").

 -- Rick
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Message 4: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

Date: Sat, 16 May 1992 01:33 GMTRe: 3.408 Adjuncts
From: "LLOYD HOLLIDAY, LA TROBE UNIV, EDUCATIOEDULHlure.latrobe.edu.au <EDULHlure.latrobe.edu.au>
Subject: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

re Michael Newman's query and the responses:

In my English "when" is permissable as a rel. cl. marker and C.L. Baker. 1989.
English Syntax. explicitly says so on p. 238. I don't agree that any kind
of elision has taken place or that it is an adverbial clause of time.
The problem if there is one is simply the collocation of the two words
"time" and "when" which don't sit comfortably together to the English ear.
Consider for acceptability:
1) I remember the first occasion when we played golf.
The rejection of "when" in the sentence Newman cites:
2) I don't remember the first time when I played golf.
is made not on structural or syntactic grounds but purely on the basis I
suggest that "time" means "when" and thus sounds awkward. On a scale
of acceptability the following sentence might lie twixt the others:
3) I remember the first day when I played golf.
Since day is less basically a word like "time" (=meaning when) we may
judge this as more acceptable. "That" is also perhaps by choice the
strongest marker in English of restrictiveness in rel. cl. and since
that is what the function of these rel clauses are to restrict the
"day" or "time" we prefer "that" in a "formal" sense.
As to the chaining with "and", I suspect that what those kinds of
sentences represent are:
4) I remember the first day when we played golf (delete and) that these
noisy buggers came along and ruined our game. "and" is effectively
introducing an NP THat... not another rel cl.

Lloyd Holliday
School of Education
La Trobe University, Melbourne
edulhlure.latrobe.edu.au
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Message 5: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

Date: Mon, 18 May 92 16:48:01 CDRe: 3.408 Adjuncts
From: Eric Schiller <schillertira.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 3.408 Adjuncts

In a language where many speakers confuse "which" and "that", is
it any surprise that there is flexibility regarding "that" and "when"?
Can anyone name the first scholar who noted these things? <grin>

Eric Schiller
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