LINGUIST List 3.464

Thu 04 Jun 1992

Disc: Innateness and Rules

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Avery Andrews, innateness
  2. Vicki Fromkin, Re: 3.459 Rules
  3. , 3.459 Rules

Message 1: innateness

Date: Tue, 2 Jun 92 12:53:36 PDTinnateness
From: Avery Andrews <andrewsCsli.Stanford.EDU>
Subject: innateness

I would like to clarify the point that I am not at all skeptical of
something like UG being innate (I find the `poverty of the stimulus'
argument entirely convincing, in spite of `motherese', etc.). What
I do find unmotivated on purely linguistic grounds (and probably
unmotivatable on such grounds) is that idea that what is innate is
specific to language. I believe that this is also the issue that
Joe Stemberger has trouble with.
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Message 2: Re: 3.459 Rules

Date: Wed, 03 Jun 92 09:13 PDT
From: Vicki Fromkin <IYO1VAFMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 3.459 Rules

Re the discussion on 'normative' rules etc. Anyone who listens for
or notates or works with speech errors will affirm I am sure that
all kinds of ill-formed stuff is produced. What is important is that
speakers of the language know it is illformed. Otherwise there is
no sense to the notion 'slip of the tongue' or 'error'. Try the
following on your friends,students,even enemies and see how many will
(in a decision task) agree that something is wrong' or the sentences
are 'ungrammatical' or 'funny' or....

 1) the last I know about that
 2) where is the grandballroom, by any chance?
 3) it would be of interesting to see
 4) she was waiting her husband for
 5) how he can get it done it time?
 6) does it hear different? (for 'does it sound different?)
 7) she made him to do the assignment over
 8) she promised me to secrecy
 9) did you stay up very last night?
 10) it took you longer to read it than it took me to wrote it.

The knolwedge that these are ill-formed in English has nothing to do
with normative rules -- just grammatical constraints. V
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Message 3: 3.459 Rules

Date: Thu, 4 Jun 92 20:24:30 EDT3.459 Rules
From: <>
Subject: 3.459 Rules

Thanks to Hoslkuldur Thrainsson and Rob Stainton for addressing
the issue I raised of how we identify 'normal' vs. 'abnormal'
utterances. I think we all three agree that linguistics should
be able to defend its ability to make this distinction. However,
I do not think that this as easy as either of you seem to think.

Thus, the status of abnormal utterances cannot easily be
compared to that of water boiling at other 100 degrees C when
mixed with impurities. For, physical theory predicts precisely
at what temperature it will boil depending on the kind and
amount of the impurities.

Likewise, physical theory can explain why a small object, when
dropped, does not always fall.

However, linguistic theories, as normally stated, simply ignore
abnormal utterances.

For this reason, I also find Hoskuldur's position a little too
optimistic: when we throw out abnormal utterances, we are
not just sifting the data. We are making crucial decisions
which must either be justified in some way or else they do
make normativists.
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