LINGUIST List 7.458

Mon Mar 25 1996

Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <dseelyemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. Stirling Newberry, Re: vol-7-440, Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
  2. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 7.440, Disc: Economy
  3. Richard Hudson, RE: 7.440, Economy

Message 1: Re: vol-7-440, Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 15:29:07 EST
From: Stirling Newberry <allegrodns.bluesky.net>
Subject: Re: vol-7-440, Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
In vol-7-440, Yehuda Falk writes:

...
> Secondly, the concept of modularity/autonomy/... of the linguistic
>component, or subcomponents within it, does not contradict the idea that
>some general cognitive abilities may somehow come into play in language. I
>don't think there's any question that language is somehow tied to general
>cognition; however, the existence of formal properties unique to language
>provides the argument for some sort of modularity of the mind.
>

It does not seem clear that the premise of this statement is correct - if
the mind is modularized then there are *no* general cognitive modules or
abilities, merely combinations or patterns of modes that characterize
particular modes of thinking. Formal properties unique to language could
occur not out of sections of the brain unique to language, but of forms or
patterns of these sections unique to langauge. If we see over time that
every section of the brain used in language is also used in other thought
modes then we should expect to see formal properties unique to language
that are not based on single modes activity but in the result of the
message passing behavior between two or more of them.

Since the shift from one mode to another involves nessesarily an overlap of
function, since one is triggered by activity in common with another, the
most likely source for unique linguistic properties would be Xaotic
interaction between two more more thought modes.

Stirling Newberry allegrobluesky.net

"The true artist has no pride, for he realizes that art's demands are
limitless, and though he may be admired or praised by others, he sees only
darkly how far he is from his goal, when a greater inspiration shall shine
before him like a distant sun."
Ludwig van Beethoven
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Message 2: Re: 7.440, Disc: Economy

Date: Sat, 23 Mar 1996 18:11:17 EST
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.440, Disc: Economy
I like most of Yehuda Falk's comments on economy and modularity,
except for one point: surely, finding formal properties "unique
to language" is difficult to do if we are just doing linguistics.
We would need some other mental faculty which is at least as
well understood as language and where the putative properties
at issue do not hold. Yet I am not sure that we have any such,
and hence the assertions about the uniqueness to language of
various proposed linguistic universals seem to be skating on
thin ice. Or am I missing something?
 
Alexis Manaster Ramer
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Message 3: RE: 7.440, Economy

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 1996 11:20:34 CST
From: Richard Hudson <r.hudsonlinguistics.ucl.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 7.440, Economy
> 2)
> Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 09:08:00 PST
> From: falkHUM.HUJI.AC.IL (Falk Yehuda)
> Subject: Re: vol-7-402, Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
>
> Esa Itkonen asked (LINGUIST 7-402) whether the importance of economy
> principles in Minimalism makes the Minimalist Program functionalist rather
> than formalist.


Yehuda Falk says in reaction to Esa Itkonen's comment on the implications of
`economy' in Minimalism:

> I think this is a misunderstanding of the formalist position. In the
> first place, "economy" of some sort has always played a role in formal
> linguistic theory, back to the notion of an "evaluation metric" in early
> generative grammar. These have always been economy conditions on formal
> grammatical processes, and this is no less true of Minimalist economy
> conditions like Procrastinate and Greed than of earlier approaches. To see
> them as a radical departure away from formal theory is not justified.

dh: The earlier types of `economy' applied to the activity of the *linguist*
writing a grammar: assume the minimum of rules, categories, etc. The new
kind of economy is surely completely different, as it applies to the *user*.
I think Esa Itkonen is right. 


> Secondly, the concept of modularity/autonomy/... of the linguistic
> component, or subcomponents within it, does not contradict the idea that
> some general cognitive abilities may somehow come into play in language. I
> don't think there's any question that language is somehow tied to general
> cognition; however, the existence of formal properties unique to language
> provides the argument for some sort of modularity of the mind.

dh: The modularity thesis is often presented as though language was *totally*
encapsulated (e.g. Fodor). Partial modularity, as suggested by Yehuda Falk,
strikes me as much more acceptable. But it's a matter of opinion whether
there are *any* `formal properties unique to language'; some of us think that
at least some of the peculiarities of the GB/P&P/Minimalist theory of language
are actually built in by the initial assumptions.
============================================================================
Prof Richard Hudson Tel: +44 171 387 7050 ext 3152
 E-mail: r.hudsonling.ucl.ac.uk
Dept. of Phonetics and Linguistics Tel: +44 171 380 7172
 Fax: +44 171 383 4108
UCL
Gower Street
London WC1E 6BT
UK
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