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Anders Holmberg CRiLLS.  The grammar of a language L: The set of categories, rules, and principles which relate sound to meaning in L  Speech sound.

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Presentation on theme: "Anders Holmberg CRiLLS.  The grammar of a language L: The set of categories, rules, and principles which relate sound to meaning in L  Speech sound."— Presentation transcript:

1 Anders Holmberg CRiLLS

2  The grammar of a language L: The set of categories, rules, and principles which relate sound to meaning in L  Speech sound Meaning  The grammar is a component of human cognition: part innate/invariant across the species, part culture/subject to variation/learnt through experience Grammar

3 Chomsky (1995, 2001, 2005): What does it take, minimally, for a cognitive system to be able to relate linguistic sound to meaning, the way grammars do?  There must be words (morphemes).  There must be an operation which combines words.  Anything else? The Minimalist thesis: What is minimally required for a system to be able to relate linguistic sound to meaning is all there is. More cautiously put: To propose anything in addition to the components which are minimally required you need to have very strong evidence.

4 The Lexicon contains: car, new, my, in,... The operation Merge selects car and new and merges them: It selects my and merges it with the constructed tree It selects in and merges it with the constructed tree. in my new car

5 We went to Scotland in my new car Phrase structure: A hierarchic construct derived by merging words with words, and words with phrases, and phrases with phrases. If Merge is always binary, then the derived structure will always be binary branching.

6 We went to Scotland in my new car Structural relations: Sisterhood Dominance/containment C-command How is it different from any other hierarchic system derived by combining primitive units into successively larger units?

7 Every phrase (every combination of two or more words) has a head, which is one of the merged words. When a merges with b, either a or b is the head of the derived phrase. a a b

8 Every phrase (every combination of two or more words) has a head, which is one of the merged words. When a merges with b, either a or b is the head of the derived phrase. b a b

9  It’s crucial for semantic interpretation: song Birdsong is a kind of song. bird song bird A songbird is a kind of bird. song bird

10  It’s crucial for structure building: The operation Merge is dependent on headedness. to go to Scotland Go is a directional verb, which must combine with an expression signifying direction. To is a preposition signifying direction. Scotland is a proper name signifying a place. Go can merge with to Scotland because to is the head of the phrase.

11  Headedness determines word order: Combine the noun song and the noun bird. If song is the head  birdsong. If bird is the head  songbird. English: In complex words: the head follows the non-head. In phrases: the head precedes the non-head to Scotland go to Scotland proud of Scotland

12 PP P NP to Scotland Not the case that Merge always derives a phrase. N N N bird song

13  Phrase structure (and word structure) in natural language is typically asymmetric, in that phrases (and complex words) have a head.  A strong hypothesis: It’s always asymmetric. Possible counterexample: Coordination. John and Mary

14  There are many hierarchic systems. But most of them are not endocentric. A family tree: Ella Inger Bodil Nina Anders Mona Maria Structural relations similar to those of phrase structure, But there are no heads.

15 Or even unique to natural language? C-command: A node a c-commands its sister node b, and every node contained in b (= dominated by b). a b c d a c-commands b, c, and d, b c-commands a, c and d do not c-command a.

16 There can be no syntactic relation between two nodes which are not in a c-command relation. John admires himself (OK because John c- commands himself) (Not OK, because John John’s mother admires himself does not c-command himself)

17  mother John’s mother admires herself In the sentence John’s mother admires herself. the reflexive pronoun refers back to John’s mother, which does c-command herself, and has the required feminine feature, because mother is the head.

18  Limitations on computational power of the human linguistic processor.  Grammatical relations are always local.  Many grammatical relations can only hold between sisters.  More ‘long-distance’ relations are subject to the c-command condition.

19 Ella Inger Bodil Nina Anders Mona Maria

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22 1.Eva stamp balloon. (= Eva stamped on a balloon) 2.Eva balloon bang. 3.Eva stamp balloon bang. 4.Lady kind. Help us. 5.Ants bite you. (Here, she’s copying adults saying ‘Ants might bite you.’) 6.Something bite you. 7.Nick tickle you. (= Nick tickled me.) 8.Nina bounce trampoline. (= Nina bounced on the trampoline) 9.Cecile shopping Gran. (= I’m [playing at] going shopping with Gran)

23  S NP VP V NP Eva stamp balloon Something bite you Nick tickle you Nina bounce trampoline

24 Hierarchy doesn’t inherently have linear order. = a b b a = a b c c b a

25 The Linear Correspondence Axiom (Kayne 1994): If a node a asymmetrically c-commands a node b, then a precedes b. a b = b a c... c...  a > b > c

26 It means that the compound birdsong can’t have the structure bird song But rather bird song Ø

27 Chomsky: What does it take, minimally, for a cognitive system to be able to relate linguistic sound to meaning, the way grammars of natural language do?  There must be words/morphemes,  There must be an operation which combines words and derived phrases, and assigns one of the merged items the status of head.

28 Chomsky, N. 1995. The minimalist program. MIT Press. Chomsky, N. 2001. Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.). Ken Hale: a life in language. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, 1-53. Chomsky, N. 2005. Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36: 1- 22. Hornstein, Norbert. 2009. A theory of syntax: Minimal operations and UG. Oxford: Blackwell. Hornstein, Norbert & Paul Pietroski. 2009. Basic operations. Minimal syntax- semantics. Catalan Journal of Linguistics 8, 113-139. Kayne, Richard. 1994. The antisymmetry of syntax, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Terrace, Herbert. 1983. Apes who “talk”: Language or projection of language by their teachers? In Language in primates. Perspectives and implications, ed. by J. de Luce and H.T.Wilder. New York: Springer. Terrace, Herbert. 1987. Nim. A chimpanzee who learned sign language. New York: Columbia University Press.


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