LINGUIST List 3.343

Fri 17 Apr 1992

Disc: Rules

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  1. Martti Arnold Nyman, Itkonen on Andrews on Itkonen (& rules)
  2. "Larry G. Hutchinson", Re: 3.336 Rules
  3. Martti Arnold Nyman, On atheoretically known rules

Message 1: Itkonen on Andrews on Itkonen (& rules)

Date: Mon, 13 Apr 1992 23:08 EETItkonen on Andrews on Itkonen (& rules)
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet>
Subject: Itkonen on Andrews on Itkonen (& rules)

Esa Itkonen, who is not in the Linguist List, has asked me
to send his response to Avery Andrews's posting (3.276) on
The Reality of Rules (& Itkonen).
 -- Martti Nyman
 Dept of General Linguistics, Univ of Helsinki, Finland


> Date: Sat, 21 Mar 1992 17:56:05 GMT
> Subject: The Reality of Rules (& Itkonen)
> [...]
> What I would take as a knockdown refutation of what I said is a passage
> where Itkonen clearly says that linguist's generalizations are in the
> first instance arrived at by induction from the properties of particular
> strings of words (contexts being involved in the properties, of course).
> But this would leave me puzzled as to in what sense linguistics was supposed
> to be nonempirical, or like mathematics.

Andrews invites me to accept the view that 'the linguist's
generalizations are arrived at by induction from particular
cases'. The reason I decline to accept this view, is that it
misrepresents the facts. An empirical inductive generalization
('All crows are black') is refuted by a single counter-example
(= a non-black crow), but a rule-sentence (= 'The English
definite article precedes the noun') is not refuted by a prima
facie counter-example (= an utterance of 'man the'), the
reason being that what we thought was a counter-example, was
in reality an incorrect form (or action). It all boils down to
the difference between regularities and rules (= norms).
Rules, as I use the term, are pretheoretical, low-level enti-
ties, described, if at all, by (rule-)sentences of the same
type. (The term 'definite article' is dispensable.) Rules are
the object of linguistic intuition; thus, intuition is not
about particular cases. This type of knowledge (which I prefer
to call 'a priori') has of course been learned on the basis of
observation (of particular cases), but -- to repeat -- not on
the basis of empirical induction. Notice, incidentally, that
in reality there is no a priori knowledge in the literal
sense of this word. Mathematics too (like language) needs to
be learned, and for this, the child needs experiences. Without
them, he will end up as an idiot, with no mathematics (nor
language). The theoretical, non-intuitive grammar may or may
not seek after psychological reality (= Derwing vs. Montague,
for instance). The questions that this very brief summary may
have left unanswered have been answered in my 1978 book. (On
the normativity of linguistic data, see also Baker & Hacker:
Language, Sense, and Nonsense, Ch.7; on the normativity of
mental representations, see McGinn: Mental Content, pp. 159-
160; on the unavoidability of normativity, see also Putnam's
paper 'Reflexive Reflections', esp.218: 'In conversation Noam
Chomsky has suggested that our 'competence' description is a
description of correct thinking in the normative sense'.)
 Esa Itkonen
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Message 2: Re: 3.336 Rules

Date: Sun, 12 Apr 92 20:03:55 -0Re: 3.336 Rules
From: "Larry G. Hutchinson" <>
Subject: Re: 3.336 Rules

The comment that "A grammatical theory, as a theory about the mere shape of
the data in somebody's file card collection, is an utterly uninteresting
object" is simply false. We know that many, many people have actually been
interested in such theories for at least 25 or 30 centuries.

My comment about facts becoming evidence had to do with the logic of the
situation, not with "motivation for people". But in point of fact, if people
actually find a set of facts interesting, this in itself provides a motivation
for expanding a theory to be about them.
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Message 3: On atheoretically known rules

Date: Thu, 16 Apr 1992 21:17 EETOn atheoretically known rules
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet>
Subject: On atheoretically known rules

re: Avery Andrews (Linguist 3.336)

> >Lrules are conventional social norms of which
> >competent speakers have intuitive knowledge. It's in virtue of this
> >(shared) knowledge that a competent speaker is able to speak correctly
> >(or grammatically, if you wish).

> Is an Lrule supposed to be a fact about a particular sort of
> utterance, such as `say [would like a cookie] when you want
> to make people think you want a cookie'?

I was speaking of grammar (syntax, morphology), not of pragmatics. By
correctness I mean simply that native speakers have notions, intuitions,
knowledge about which linguistic forms (e.g. morphological forms) are
(grammatically) correct and which are not.

> Or is something
> else involved?

Yes. Let me quote an example sentence from Avery Andrews's article
-- which, incidentally, I find a very nice piece of work -- on "The
major functions of the noun phrase" (in:T.Shopen, ed. Language typology
and syntactic description, I: 62-154):
"(3) a. The farmers kill(*s) the duckling" (p.63).
Unless I'm mistaken, (3) can (and is intended to) be paraphrased
as "_The_farmers_kill_the_duckling_ is (grammatically) correct,
whereas _The_farmers_kills_the_duckling_ isn't". In my terminology,
(3) is a rule-sentence, which Andrews offers as an exemplification
of the corresponding rule of language (= Lrule = norm [NB: I'm not
speaking of prescriptivists' norms, but rather of the normative
character of language and other institutions]). Our knowledge
of the rule (Lrule) exemplified by (3) is atheoretical:
we know a priori that it would be incorrect to say "The farmers kills
the duckling", but we don't know a priori whether it is the subject
that agrees with the verb, or whether it is the verb that agrees with
the subject. This we know (theoretically) as soon as we have
taken a stand to this theoretical problem in our grammar.

re: G. Vanden Wyngaerd (Linguist 3.336)

> The question arises more generally, ie with respect to the
> distinction between Grules and Lrules itself: how does one
> tell the two types of rules apart? For instance, if one finds
> that a speaker observes the wh-island constraint, or forms
> yes-no questions by having recourse to hierarchical structure
> rather than linear precedence, is (s)he observing a Grule or
> an Lrule? How do we know? Unless these questions can receive a
> satisfactory answer, I see no grounds at all for making a
> distinction between Grules and Lrules.

I must refer to my above response to Avery Andrews.
As to wh-island effects, I'm afraid sentences of the type
 ?What did Mary wonder to whom Max gave
rather belong to a virtual world generated by the grammarian.
I readily admit they aren't generalizations about Lrule(s)
exemplified by the above ?:ed sentence.

Martti Nyman, General Linguistics, University of Helsinki, Finland
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