LINGUIST List 7.1341

Fri Sep 27 1996

Sum: Intuitionism vs. empiricism

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. "Christian K. Nelson", Sum: Intuitionism vs. empiricism

Message 1: Sum: Intuitionism vs. empiricism

Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1996 10:22:52 CDT
From: "Christian K. Nelson" <>
Subject: Sum: Intuitionism vs. empiricism

Thanks to all those who sent information in regard to my query for
information regarding debates within linguistics over intuitionist vs.
empirical approaches. I've snipped the pertinent passages below,
provided some paraphrases were pertinent, and included the names to
thank their authors publicly. Further, I've noted some contributions
at the end that came via means other than e-mail.

>There is an excellent and provocative discussion on this in a book by
>Geoffrey Sampson called Schools of Linguistics 1980: Stanford
>U. Press. There is another book -- less academic called Is the Native
>Speaker Dead? -- I can't find the reference at the moment. In my
>book Semiotics and Linguistics (Longman 1990) I have some discussion
>on the issue (with references in footnotes).

>Yishai Tobin

Alan Huffman writes that:
>Linguists of the Columbia School have written a great deal about this
>topic. Among those writings that are most pertinent, he recommended:
>Contini-Morava, Ellen, and Barbara Goldberg, editors
>** 1995 Meaning as explanation: Advances in linguistic sign theory.
 ** Berlin: Mouton-De Gruyter.
>Huffman, Alan
>** 1997 The categories of grammar: French lui and le. Amsterdam: John
> Benjamins.
>Reid, Wallis
>** 1991 Verb and noun number in English : A functional explanation.
> Long- man.

Chad Nilep writes:
In the Introduction to *The Minimalist Program*, Chomsky discusses the
conflict between intuitive and empirical linguistics. I believe John
Lyons also talks about the two approaches in the field of semantics.
While I believe *Semantics 1* is out of print, *Semantics 2* is
available. Perhaps you can close in on the problem by approaching it
from these two (nearly opposite) directions.>
>Chomsky, Noam. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995.
>Lyons, John. Semantics 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1977.

Juhani Jarvikivi suggested:
Itkonen, Esa 1978: Grammatical theory and Metascience: Amsterdam:
Itkonen, Esa 1983: Causality in Linguistic Theory. London: Croom Helm

John Coleman suggests looking at:
Ohala, J. J. (1986) Consumer's guide to evidence in
phonology. Phonology Yearbook 3, 3-26.

Carson Schutze notably states that "within my field intuitive data is
one kind of empirical data" and recommends I see his book "The
empirical base of linguistics: Grammaticality judgments and linguistic
methodology", U. of Chicago Press, 1996.

Rene' Schneider suggested I take a look at the distinction between
'intuitive' and 'discursive' as presented in the Handbook of Philosphy
since >(Discursive as it was used by the greeks has a lot to do with

Matti Koponen also wrote to note that within applied linguistics the
intuitive concept of "fluency" is not clearly empirically described in
any consistent/clear manner (something I've noticed in my own
students' description of conversations).

Finally, Georgia Green of the Beckman Institute generously sent a copy
of her paper "Assessing Techniques for Analysis of Natural Language
Use" (Cognitive Science Technical Report UIUC-BI-CS-94-08 (Language

Thanks again, to everyone for the starting points for my research into
this subject!

Christian Nelson

Dr. Christian Kjaer Nelson
Dept. of Communication
Purdue Univ.
W. Lafayette, IN 47907 USA
phone: 317/494-3323
fax: 317/496-1394
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