LINGUIST List 4.715

Fri 17 Sep 1993

Disc: Marginal Utterances, Resonance Theory

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  1. Bill Bennett, Re 4.665 Marginal utterances
  2. Penny Lee, Hockett's resonance theory

Message 1: Re 4.665 Marginal utterances

Date: Tue, 14 Sep 93 18:37:00 BSRe 4.665 Marginal utterances
From: Bill Bennett <>
Subject: Re 4.665 Marginal utterances

In his posting 4.696 Marginal utterances, Harold Schiffman appeared to be
chiding those of us who had been discussing the structural role of -whom- in
written BrE (and possibly elsewhere).

Hal precisely regretted the absence of sociolinguistic input to the discussion.
If this input had been explicitly excluded from our discussion, those of us
engaged in the syntactic debate would have been deserving of the chiding. Hal
doubted if there were many sociolinguists reading the LINGUIST - but who would
be counting? And how? Syntactic theory is as nothing if it is not responding to
a theory of linguistic behaviour. I suppose few linguists nowadays read, let
alone learn by heart, the third para of -Aspects-(1965:3).

What about defining our profession by the declaration of allegiance to the
passage 'Linguistic theory...ideal speaker-listener [for us
all]...speech-community [socio-]...knows...performance [psycho-]'? (having
deleted the words -completely homogeneous-, -perfectly- and -unaffected-;
quadruple idealization is 300% too much). The statement is too important for
its over-enthusiasm to condemn it. For one thing, it would be prudent to
include the aspects of "performance" that Chomsky banished, for we could not
otherwise then provide for Hal's wish to encompass

 > speakers monitoring processes

It would be rather helpful, from time to time, for GB, GPSG or GP (for
starters) to be surveyed from a psychological and/or sociological viewpoint.
What I persist in regarding with pleasure as a Hudsonian call for unity in our
subject would furnish a useful reminder that it is not only syntax that must
treat of the non-superficial. What is observable about "social forces"? And
what is the notation for percepts?

Hal referred to syntactic change as

 > some change of perception of the grammaticality of the construction in
 > question

thereby enabling the speaker-listener to move away from

 > dubious grammaticality

and bringing Hal into apparent psycholinguistic and syntactic territory (and WHY
NOT?); taking for granted that we are all conscious by nature of what
constitutes the entity

 > the construction in question.

In a similar, worrying, way, Robert Wachal referred, on 4 September, to

 > Such structures

without joining me in an attempt to specify what exactly characterizes the
"suchness" of what I have termed a finite-ECM.

The perceptual alignment of
 (a) [We consider [[him] to be there]];
 (b) ...[who-m] [we consider [[t] to be there]];
 (c) ...[who-m] [we consider [[e][t] is there]];

is exactly what Hal is telling us of restructuring. But I am doubtful if the
term "hypercorrection" will do to characterize what is happening. It will suit
those who see in (b-c) merely a wilful use of prestigious -whom-, but this is
to assign no role in change to the analogy of the accusative and infinitive (or
"ECM") of (a). Syntactical work is properly aimed at the explanation of just
those structural relations which determine perceptual and social change in

But here I have a problem for the sociolinguist (or simply, pace Hudson,
the many examples of finite-ECM (=(c)) were brought to my attention by
educated speakers of BrE (university teachers). At the same time, the rich
source of these utterances (although Cathy Ball has given me examples from the
16th and 17th centuries) has been among writers, i.e. the same speech-community
as those who found them marginal. So, what language and register does the
paradigm (a-c) belong to?

Bill Bennett
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Message 2: Hockett's resonance theory

Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1993 19:01:59 Hockett's resonance theory
From: Penny Lee <>
Subject: Hockett's resonance theory

I've been wondering if anyone else finds C.F. Hockett's (1987)
"Refurbishing our Foundations", and in particular his essentially
connectionist "resonance theory of morphology", as exciting as I do. And if
we do escape "the great agglutinative fraud" and discard our componential,
aggregational, "transducer fallacy" based notion of minimal meaningful
units and all that goes with it, and begin to talk about massive
associationism, "slurvian", gestalt perception of speech (and writing) and
"recognition units" (chunks of any size that set off reverberations in the
internalized system), what implications will it have for linguistics as we
know it? Regards, Penny Lee
Education (SSS), Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001.
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