LINGUIST List 3.353

Sun 19 Apr 1992

Disc: Rules

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Avery Andrews, rules
  2. , Re: 3.343 Rules

Message 1: rules

Date: Fri, 17 Apr 92 21:42:20 PDrules
From: Avery Andrews <andrewsCsli.Stanford.EDU>
Subject: rules

Re: Larry G. Hutchinson" <> (Linguist 3.343)

>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.

Well, I don't know what the grammarians of Ancient Antiquity actually
thought they were doing, but I'd be pretty surprised if what they
were interested in was the shape of data, as understood in a modern
sense. But even if they were, we can do better than that, and so we

Let me expand a bit on why `theories are about their evidence' is such a
terrible principle. 25 years ago, there was a genuine issue as to whether
the study of manual sign language belonged to linguistics or not. If
one accepts the above principle, there still is such an issue, since
linguistics was originally supposed to be basically about spoken language
(even if written forms loom too large in the concerns of generativists),
and there hasn't been any convention to rewrite the charter, as it were.

As it happens, we can say today that it does belong to linguistics,
without having a boring meeting, since there is now overwhelming
evidence that the causal factors underlying sign are essentially the same
as those underlying spoken language (e.g. it has syntax, phonology, etc.),
and since the same general sorts of methods are useful for studying them,
sign and spoken language should go into the same discipline.

If one focusses on the causes of phenomena, this kind of demarcation
issue can be settled in a sensible way, while just talking about kinds
of evidence goes nowhere (imagine if early twentieth century chemist and
physicists had agreed that they were looking at different kinds
of evidence, so their theories could safely go their own ways ...)
Of course kinds of evidence are relevant to disciplinary boundaries,
since different kinds evidence require different kinds of caution and craft
in dealing with them. But this is a matter of practicality, not principle.
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 3.343 Rules

Date: Sat, 18 Apr 92 13:35:39 EDRe: 3.343 Rules
From: <>
Subject: Re: 3.343 Rules

On Itkonen on Andrews on Itkonen

Just a brief comment: If somebody says that "the article precedes the
noun in English", he or she must mean that within the entity known
as an NP (or DP or whatever) the article precedes the noun. If
somebody "utters" the sequence of words "man the" it would indeed
count as a counterexample if this were an instance of NP. It would
clearly not constitute a counterexample to the rule just as
a random sequence of words because it wouldn't be an NP (or DP...).
We know, for instance, that the word "man" precedes the word "the"
in English alphabetical order and that is not a counterexample to
the rule about NPs. The reason why one doesn't refute the NP-rule
by just saying "man the" is simply this: "man the" is not an NP.
Similarly, one cannot refute the generalization that "crows are black"
by pointing at a white gull or a white fish and say: "No, they
are not. Look at this one!"
Hoskuldur Thrainsson
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue