LINGUIST List 7.489

Sun Mar 31 1996

Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Dan Everett, Re: 7.482, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Message 1: Re: 7.482, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Date: Fri, 29 Mar 1996 14:21:37 EST
From: Dan Everett <>
Subject: Re: 7.482, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
Manaster-Ramer says:

> The argument of Chomsky's, as restated for us by Dan Everett, that
> certain proposed linguistic principles must be linguistic and not
> general-cognitive, because they are not statABLE in any terms other
> than linguistic, strikes me fallacious. And not just because I do
> not, as Dan correctly surmises, have much use for most of Chomsky's
> work since 1965 or so, but for a specific reason. It is the
> emphasized -ABLE (my emphasis) that bothers me. All I know is that
> the various island constraints and so on have not been statED in more
> general terms, not that they are not statABLE in such terms.

Look, the point of the argument is that it is a *challenge*, not a
prohibition. Maybe these things are statABLE in other terms - it would be
interesting to all of us if someone so stated them. The claim is that
those who accept the claims for language-specificity of these principles
have conducted research on grammar and this is their report: NPs must have
Case, extraction cannot take place from ungoverned positions, agreement
involves SPEC of AGRP, etc. These researchers claim to have come up with
the best analysis/theory of the facts *they* were able to come up with,
letting the chips fall where they may. The chips, it is argued, stack up
in the shape of modules. That is, they/we do not see how to reinterpret
the facts *so analysed* in terms of anything but grammar. The claim is NOT
that they cannot be reanalysed to have application outside of grammar. The
claim is that it doesn't *appear* that they can if this model is right. So
now you are asking them to try harder. One response might be that this
model has already done its thing. The challenge now falls to any other
model to find another way of stating things that accounts for the relevant
facts in terms applicable to other cognitive domains. (And to my
pessimistic eye, I see this leading to an infinite regress -
incommensurability and all that.) The final line of the song is: We would
be happy to find such a theory. But we have not seen one. We are certainly
not prohibiting one. 

Hudson says he stands by what he said about economy. I would very much
like to agree with him. But I still don't. In Minimalist Theory, one does
not propose analyses based on indexes or unnecessary movements, because -
so the argument goes - these things don't properly reflect what speakers
do. There is also a principle called "Economy" which says that structures
involving unnecessary movement are out. They are out because speakers
don't work that way. THEREFORE, linguists ought not to assume uneconomic
analyses (analyses which may or may not also violate "ECONOMY".) I still
do not see the difference. The only confusion it seems to me is that
economy now refers to minimal assumptions about linguistic forms AND a
specific principle of the same name. So, the notion of economy that we 
used in days of beads and sandals is still the one we use in days of our 
kids' tuition.

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