LINGUIST List 7.512

Sat Apr 6 1996

Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

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


Directory

  1. Richard Hudson, RE: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
  2. Alexis Manaster Ramer, Re: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
  3. Paul Deane, RE: 7.467, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Message 1: RE: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Date: Mon, 01 Apr 1996 10:16:46 CST
From: Richard Hudson <r.hudsonlinguistics.ucl.ac.uk>
Subject: RE: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
Dan Everett says:

> 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.

dh: Agreed. I accept the link between linguists and speakers. This is common
ground across many theories, and hasn't changed since the days of beads and
sandals.

> 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.

dh: It's the specific principle called Minimalism that I think we're arguing
about. The argument started when Esa Itkonen said that the role of economy
was different in Minimalism from what it had been in Chomsky's earlier work.
I think you're agreeing.

> 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.

dh: So that's a pretty misleading conclusion!
============================================================================
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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Message 2: Re: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Date: Mon, 01 Apr 1996 08:52:46 EST
From: Alexis Manaster Ramer <amrCS.Wayne.EDU>
Subject: Re: 7.489, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism
Re Dan Everett's reply: I am certainly pleased to see that you
are not "prohibiting" the idea that linguistic principles might
be more than just linguistic, but that does not address my
point. OF COURSE, neither you nor Noam can prohibit research
of this sort. But what I am objecting to is [the claim] 
that we know anything at all on the question
of whether linguistic principles are or are not distinct from
the rest of cognition. You simply do not know and have no
right to say anything on the subject, none of us do until we
do some comparable research on other parts of cognition.
 
There is no conceivable philosophy of science which allows
people to make strong claims simply because nothing at all
is known about a particular point.
 
Alexis MR
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Message 3: RE: 7.467, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

Date: Wed, 03 Apr 1996 13:02:00 EST
From: Paul Deane <PDeanedataware.com>
Subject: RE: 7.467, Disc: Economy, Minimalism, and Formalism

I've noted quite a bit of discussion in this thread along the following 
lines:

>Chomsky pointed out what would constitute language-specific principles
>quite explicitly in the debate with Piaget years ago. In any case,
>the basic argument would be something like, to take one example, "WH-Island
>constraints (or their various reformulations, Subjacency, Tensed-S,
>Nominative Island Condition, ECP, etc.) - as formulated in GB, minimalist
>theory, etc. - are only statable in terms of language. Therefore, they
>are language-specific principles."

>Now, this may not convince you. I would be surprised if it did. But the
>task faced by one wishing to rebut this argument would be to show that an
>equally good account of, say, the ECP is possible for language (i.e. which
>gets all and only the relevant extraction facts), but which also accounts
>for properties of some other cognitive system, say, vision. This seems
>highly unlikely. This is Chomsky's usual strategy.

The unstated assumption of comments like these (and this is just a sample, 
there were others with similar presuppositions) is that the issue is 
entirely hypothetical: that there are no serious
proposals out there which seek to show that such specific linguistic 
principles as subjacency and the island constraints can be derived from more 
general cognitive capacities. I'd like to call attention to the fact that 
that assumption simply isn't true. There are serious proposals linking 
specific grammatical properties to specific nonlinguistic cognitive 
abilities. (Being the author of one I should know. My book was reviewed on 
the linguist list by Patrick Farrell recently, and also was noted in 
Language last year. The bibliographic details: Paul D. Deane, _Grammar in 
Mind and Brain: Explorations in Cognitive Syntax_, Berlin: Mouton de 
Gruyter, 1992.) While there are not a lot of proposals in this area, some 
proposals within Cognitive Grammar are also specific enough to allow a point 
for point comparison, such as Karen Van Hoek's work on anaphora which just 
appeared in Language.

This issue is somewhat tangential to the original theme of this thread, but 
so far any discussion I've seen has had a very general quality: I'd really 
like to see some concrete discussion. Is there anyone out there who's 
interested?
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