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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 The minimalist program. MIT Press. Chomsky, N Derivation by phase. In M. Kenstowicz (ed.). Ken Hale: a life in language. Cambridge, MA.: MIT Press, Chomsky, N Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36: Hornstein, Norbert A theory of syntax: Minimal operations and UG. Oxford: Blackwell. Hornstein, Norbert & Paul Pietroski Basic operations. Minimal syntax- semantics. Catalan Journal of Linguistics 8, Kayne, Richard The antisymmetry of syntax, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Terrace, Herbert 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 Nim. A chimpanzee who learned sign language. New York: Columbia University Press.


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