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Title: A Challenge to the Minimalist Community
Submitter: Anjum Saleemi
Description: Much of the recent discussion about Minimalism reminds me of a
prevalent trend witnessed many times before on the LINGUIST list in
the course of other similar discussions. As linguists we seem to be far
too much driven by some supposedly significant methodological and
computational imperatives, or even by mere notational determinants.
My recollection of most past debates of this nature is that eventually
they often deteriorate into sterile argumentation. While issues bearing
on methodology, computational tractability, and so forth, should
remain important, surely none of them can be considered to constitute
a decisive testing ground for what is or isn't a good theory. Usually
we come to know that a theory is good only after the fact, that is, after
it has been formulated and found to be successful (and, therefore,
true). As John Framptom and others have implied in some of the
recent postings, a good parser is primarily just that: a good parser.
How exactly to anticipate the success (or otherwise) of a linguistic
theory even before it has been fleshed out is a question that's not only
unfair but misguided: if we already knew what a good theory in a
relatively unexplored domain was supposed to look like, we wouldn't
be in the business of striving for one in the first place!

In the end, the generative paradigm may indeed turn out to be wrong,
but over the decades it has provided most of the leading ideas in our
field, and has in addition helped us dig up a lot of new data. To the
extent that this is any indication of eventual success, I believe it
wouldn't be wise to let its fate be judged by any programming sleights
of hand.

Anjum Saleemi
National Chi Nan University
Date Posted: 11-May-2005
Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
Linguistic Theories
Discipline of Linguistics
LL Issue: 16.1505
Posted: 11-May-2005

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