Suppose that one adopts a broadly Chomskyan perspective, in which there is a distinction between the language faculty and other cognitive faculties, including what Chomsky has recently called the “Conceptual-Intensional system”. Then there must in principle be at least three stages in this association that need to be understood. First, there is the nonlinguistic stage of conceptualizing a particular event.1 For example, while all of the participants in an event may be affected by the event in some way or another, (...) human cognizers typically focus on one or the other of those changes as being particularly salient or relevant to their interests. This participant is taken to be the “theme” or “patient” of the event, perhaps in some kind of nonlinguistic conceptual representation, such as the one developed by Jackendoff (1983, 1990b). Second, this conceptual/thematic representation is associated with a linguistic representation in which the entity seen as the patient of the event is represented as (say) an NP that is the direct object of the verb that expresses what kind of an event it was. This is the interface between language and the conceptual system. Finally, there is the possibility of adjusting this representation internally to the language system, by way of movements, chain formations, Case assignment processes, or whatever other purely syntactic processes there may be. For example, the NP that represents the theme and starts out as the direct object of the verb may become the subject if there is no other subject in the linguistic representation, either because there was no agent in the conceptual representation (as with an unaccusative verb), or because it was suppressed (as with a passive verb). (shrink)
This chapter examines two different views of universal grammar. Most linguists assume that universal grammar is underspecified — providing us with an incomplete grammar to be elaborated by learning. But the alternative is that it is overspecified — providing us with a full range of possible grammars from which we select one on the basis of environmental input. Underspecification is now the dominant view in the developmental sciences, and is often treated as the null hypothesis on grounds of greater possibility, (...) parsimony, and simplicity. The chapter questions whether the underspecification view is really feasible and whether it is more parsimonious than the overspecification view, drawing on examples from certain African languages. It also shows that the perplexity evoked by overspecification theories disappears if language has a concealing purpose as well as a communicating purpose, similar to a code. (shrink)
The self-interaction spin-2 approach to GR has been extremely influential in the particle physics community. Leaving no doubt regarding its heuristic value, we argue that any view of the metric field of GR as nothing but a stand-in for a self-coupling field in at spacetime runs into a dilemma: either the view is physically incomplete in so far as it requires recourse to GR after all, or it leads to an absurd multiplication of alternative viewpoints on GR rendering any understanding (...) of the metric field as nothing but a spin-2 field in at spacetime unjustified. (shrink)
Plural pronouns create the possibility of overlapping reference, which does not not fit naturally into the classical GB theory of anaphora, where each NP has a single integer as its referential index. Thus, one must either complicate the indexing system used in syntax or complicate the semantic interpretation of indices. This paper argues for the former approach based on the properties of a particular comitative-like construction found in Mohawk and certain other languages. This construction is analyzed as a type of (...) Left Dislocation where the dislocated NP forms a syntactic chain with a pronoun that it overlaps in reference with. Several unusual characteristics of such chains can be accounted for if plural pronouns have sets of integers as their indices—characteristics involving bound anaphora, ellipsis interpretation, and connectivity effects. Certain implications for the theory of chains are also discussed. (shrink)
Some recent theories of gerunds account for their hybrid properties by saying that the gerund is both a noun and a verb simultaneously. Such theories are inconsistent with the Reference-Predication Constraint (RPC), a cornerstone of Baker’s (2003) theory of lexical categories. In contrast, I defend the traditional idea that gerunds are fusions of a true verb and a syntactically distinct nominal Infl. Moreover, I give new evidence in favor of the RPC, showing how it explains the fact that nominal gerunds (...) never show subject agreement in Mapudungun, and the fact that gerunds with verb-final word order have surprising agreement properties in Lokaa. Keywords: gerunds, lexical categories, nouns, verbs, Mapudungun, Lokaa.. (shrink)
Language learning and language typology are often studied separately, and it is common for experts in one area to know rather little about the other. This is not merely an unfortunate historical coincidence; there are some powerful practical reasons why it is so. The detailed study of language learning typically involves the experimental investigation of groups of people who are at various stages in the learning process—i.e., children. Hence it prototypically takes place at university daycares in North America, where the (...) children are usually learning English. In contrast, the study of typology is concerned with probing the full extent of the diversity that natural human languages can exhibit, and with finding and explaining any limits to that diversity that exist. As a result, it prototypically involves doing fieldwork with small numbers of fully competent adult speakers of less-studied languages. This fieldwork is made possible either by the researcher traveling to the often-remote areas of the world where these less-studied languages are spoken, or by finding speakers who have come nearer to the researcher through immigration. As a result, the contexts in which language acquisition can readily be studied and the contexts in which language typology can effectively be studied rarely overlap. Indeed, it is an unfortunate reality of the world as we have made it that a very large number of the “local languages” spoken by aboriginal populations, which are of great interest to typologists, have no children learning them at all (Hale, Krauss et al. (shrink)
The Cognitive Science era can be divided into two distinct periods with respect to the topic of innateness, at least from the viewpoint of the linguist. The first period, which began in the late 1950s and was characterized by the work of people like Chomsky and Fodor, argued for reviving a nativist position, in which a substantial amount of people’s knowledge of language was innate rather than learned by association or induction or analogy. This constituted a break with the empiricist/behaviorist/structuralist (...) tradition that had dominated the field before that. (shrink)
I present the so-called Verb-Object Constraint as a serious proposal for a true linguistic universal. It provides an example of the kind of abstraction in linguistic analysis that seems warranted, of how different languages can confirm such a universal in different ways, and why approaches that avoid all abstractness miss important linguistic generalizations.
Agreement morphology is the single most important way of satisfying this requirement, the other being incorporation. (1) implies that in a polysynthetic language like Mohawk, all verbs necessarily agreement with subjects, objects, and indirect objects, except for the special case when the direct object is incorporated into the verb. This accounts elegantly for paradigms like the following, found also in languages like Nahuatl and Chukchee.
This chapter provides a flavor of Chomsky's ideas relevant to linguistic diversity, and what can be taken away from them in the contemporary scene. The chapter also focuses on a variety of topics in syntactic theory and English syntax, a few in some detail, several quite superficially, and none exhaustively. Chomsky's focus on English seemed like a retrenchment. Chomsky is famous for his views about Universal Grammar, which have evolved over the years. Chomsky's early seeming neglect of crosslinguistic diversity was (...) a tactical move that has served the study of linguistic diversity very well. Lectures on Government and Binding has comments on all these developments, as Chomsky's vision burgeoned outward toward a fuller engagement with language diversity. The chapter concludes with some brief discussion of how the most recent phase of Chomsky's research, inaugurated by The Minimalist Program, affects his legacy in the study of linguistic diversity. (shrink)
“Languages are all the same, but not boringly so.” I think this is my own maxim, not one of the late great Kenneth Hale ’s. But it is nevertheless something that he taught me, by example, if not by explicit precept. Ken Hale believed passionately in a substantive notion of Universal Grammar that underlies all languages. But this did not blind him to the details—even the idiosyncrasies—of less-studied “local” languages. On the contrary, I believe it stimulated his famous zeal for (...) those details and idiosyncrasies. It is against the backdrop of what is universal that idiosyncrasies become interesting and meaningful. Conversely, it is often the fact that quite different, language particular constructions obey the same abstract constraints that provides the most striking evidence that those constraints are universal features of human language. (shrink)
Verb phrases seems to be head initial in affirmative sentences in Lokaa (a Niger-Congo language of the Cross River area of Nigeria) but head final in negative clauses and gerunds. This article aspires to give a comprehensive description of this phenomenon, together with a theoretical analysis. It considers how a full range of grammatical elements are ordered in both kinds of clauses—including direct objects, second objects, particles, weak pronouns, complement clauses, serial verbs, adverbs, prepositional phrases, tense/mood particles, and auxiliary verbs. (...) The pattern that emerges is a bit different from the one found in some superficially similar languages, such as Vata, Bambara, Nupe, and Nweh. I argue that the details are correctly explained by a “remnant movement” theory in which the Lokaa verb first moves out of the verb phrase to combine with tense/agreement inflection, and then the rest of the verb phrase moves as a unit into a specifier position at the top of the clause. This position is available because the notional subject undergoes dislocation in Lokaa, as has been claimed for many of its Bantu kin. (shrink)