LINGUIST List 4.245

Sun 04 Apr 1993

Sum: LAD = Discovery Procedures, Autonomy

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  1. , Summary: LAD = Discovery Procedures
  2. , Summary: Autonomy

Message 1: Summary: LAD = Discovery Procedures

Date: Fri, 2 Apr 93 06:54:18 ESTSummary: LAD = Discovery Procedures
From: <>
Subject: Summary: LAD = Discovery Procedures

A number of people, who probably would prefer to remain nameless,
attributed the discovery of the equivalence given in the subject
line to Bruce Derwing in his book 'TG as a theory of language
acquisition'. However, several people pointed out that this
point had been made much earlier by Chomsky in Aspects (p. 33
and fn. 20 on pp. 202-3), Gil Harman being the one who sent
the actual complete reference.

Thanks to all on this. I must confess, however, that in light
of this even I, who continually denounce the ahistorical nonsense
that passes for the teaching of linguistics, am astonished. I
certainly was taught that discovery procedures were one of the
principal things that Chomsky took the structuralists to task
for, and I wonder if other LINGUISTs have not had the same

(It turns out, of course, that Chomsky was objecting to what
he perceived (incorrectly, as Michael Kac points out) as one
of the central features of the structuralist approach to
discovery procedures, namely, that they amounted to a proposed
mechanism for discovering a correct theory, something which is
presumably impossible. But, in actual fact, it was the structuralists
who emphasized the non-uniqueness of grammatical analysis (cf. Chao)
and, on the other hand, in the mind of the child who is learning
a language with the help of his LAD, presumably a unique theory
(which may not, however, be correct!) does emerge, this being
the grammar which (s)he is supposed to be acquiring. So the
shoe would appear to be perhaps on the other foot. BUT it would
have been nice to have been taught someting approximating the
facts when one was learning linguistics for the first time.)
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Message 2: Summary: Autonomy

Date: Fri, 2 Apr 93 06:44:56 ESTSummary: Autonomy
From: <>
Subject: Summary: Autonomy

Thanks to all who wrote in on this question. Barbara Hall Partee
suggested, almost certainly correctly, that the term 'autonomy'
was first used by Chomsky in his paper 'Questions of Form and
Interpretation', which is, incidentally, the only place he
dwells on this topic in detail. Larry Trask points out, however,
that the term 'autonomous syntax' may have been used earlier by
Pieter Seuren. Incidentally, I asked Chomsky the same question
and his recollections, while hazy, agree with Barbara's.

It may not be inappropriate to add that those who, like me, read
this paper of Chomsky's for the first time (it appears in a collection
ed. by Robt. Austerlitz, Scope of American Linguistics), will be
quite surprised as to what his position of both autonomy of syntax
and autonomy of grammar actually was at that time.
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