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LF as such clearly falls short of the "full-blooded concept of meaning" philosophers tend to be interested in. In Chapter 3 the most philosophical part of the book , truth theories are specifically criticised for failing to capture the informal intuitions they purport to characterize a seminal case will be discussed further below or for simply duplicating work already done by a grammatical analysis.

For example, while the ambiguity of 'every boy dances with a girl' can be described in terms of two different formal representations in a truth-conditional semantics, the ambiguity is already explained grammatically in terms of movement of quantifiers and their relative scope, which are triggered on grammar-internal grounds cf. The conclusion is drawn that formal semantics, insofar as it captures a broader and non-grammatical notion of meaning, is not empirically significant.

Nor, according to Mukherji, is there a theory of 'concepts' that is capable of achieving this either. Despite the work done in lexical semantics, in Chapter 4 it is argued that in the absence of more stable patterns of usage, Quinean scepticism about the determinacy of a term's meaning is warranted. In the rest of the review we will discuss Mukherji's claims on the interface between grammar and interpretation more closely Section II.

We then discuss his arguments for the prospects that C HL might turn out as a general and distinguishing feature of the human mind Section III. Mukherji's central point about the absence of a divide between grammar and interpretation is a valuable one and serves to emphasise the chasm between the conception of grammar being discussed and a logical syntax of some formal language whose purpose is solely to determine whether an expression is a well-formed formula of a language or not. Mukherji also correctly highlights how there is no principled way of disentangling grammatical effects from pragmatic ones 26 -- e.


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This idea works in tandem with Mukherji's criticism of truth conditional theories of meaning. At the end of the third chapter Mukherji argues persuasively that semanticists have been mistaken in analysing the phrase the F is G in terms of Russell's 'Uniqueness condition': that there is exactly one F that is G.

While this quantificational analysis is easily represented in truth conditional notation, it doesn't capture the resource-presenting function of determiners. Thus, whereas 'The man shot them' updates information for an already given discourse referent definiteness , the purportedly equivalent 'exactly one man shot them' fails to do that.

The latter expression rather introduces a new referent. Mukherji complains that truth conditional semantic frameworks are incapable of capturing this fact about definite descriptions. In contrast, definiteness can be understood in terms of the feature specification of lexical items and their role in grammatical computation Semantic phenomena formerly captured by separate theories appended to grammatical theory fall within the purview of biolinguistics.

Indeed, it isn't clear why Mukherji attempts to preserve a special LF or "minimum semantics" at all. The resources needed to identify minimum semantics do not seem to be available. Within the Minimalist framework, the vast majority of grammatical operations are understood in terms of general efficiency principles or the satisfaction of interface conditions imposed by external systems, which include the conceptual-intentional systems C-I. Mukherji argues that the class of minimum semantics is determined by effects of a special subset of C-I systems.

This subset is taken to be those systems that are specifically linguistic: the faculty of language-driven interpretive systems FLI systems , which occupy a privileged "special location" at the edge of C HL He contends that the semantic procedures dealt with by FLI systems are "radically different" from those that are not.

Their scope is rightly left as an empirical issue Given this, Mukherji's dismissal of truth and reference as failing "to be psychological categories at all" may be premature. Throughout the book, frustration with theories of meaning that take these externalist denotational categories as theoretical primitives is palpable. However, it is not impossible, and there is some evidence, that human grammar is precisely organized around forms of reference and deixis that are humanly specific.

If so, reference and truth quite rightly have the central place that philosophers have long taken them to have: they are arguably just as specific to language as, say, anaphoric binding is. Rather than simply eradicating them, we should aim to incorporate them within an explanatory theory of language.

Noam Chomsky speaks about Universal Linguistics: Origins of Language

Recent work on phases as units of semantic interpretation organizing the referential ontology of meaning may be conducive to this aim. What is its relation to the rest of science? What notions of language and mind are underinvestigation?

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This book is a study of such foundational questions. Exploring Chomsky's claims,Nirmalangshu Mukherji argues that the significance of biolinguistic inquiry extends beyond thedomain of language. Such a strategy is, however, not tenable, for reasons mostly pointed out already by Partee , who provides a variety of examples where the form or the content of the quotation is referred to from outside the quotation as in And indeed there is substantial evidence that quotation is subject to general grammatical principles governing word order, ability to be embedded and pseudo-clefted, and semantic selection Postal, ; Bonami and Godard, For instance, there are words in numerous languages that require direct quotation as their complements.

In English the marker like and the verb go have a certain usage which requires a direct quotation as in 26a and 26b and does not allow an indirect quotation, as exemplified in 26c and 26d. Such constructions exist in many, if not all, languages although they tend to be restricted to an informal spoken register, see e. Moreover, all natural languages seem to have direct quotation of some kind. Children use direct quotation from their earliest utterances Ginzburg and Moradlou, Given the ubiquity of quotation in natural language, linguists need to explicate the mechanisms it employs.

Indeed, one is obligated to do so in a way that offers an answer to the question: why, rather than being a heterodox linguistic process, is in fact quotation so straightforward? We will suggest one such answer below. Whatever one proposes, it seems clear that direct quotation is a grammatical construction where reference is made to an interaction act, constrained via a similarity relation that needs to hold between the quoted material and the original act; Ginzburg and Cooper argue that the nature of the similarity relation is a contextual parameter of this construction, as is local grammar—the system of rules used to classify the original act.

Most crucially, it forces the grammar to be an intrinsically open system Harris, ; Postal, The view of the role of pointing and other gestures in communication, as discussed in Section 2, that essentially abstracts away from the Interaction Situation, has been challenged in a number of ways. In all but the simplest situations, the identification of the demonstratum among the objects in the pointing cone identified by a pointing gesture is a complex reasoning process involving consideration of a number of additional aspects of the Interaction Situation. Beyond this, Clark showed that pointing is neither the only nor the prototypical way to carry out a demonstration.

The Primacy of Grammar

For instance, a customer can felicitously demonstrate to the teller in a supermarker the referents of a demonstrative like These two things over here by placing the two objects on the counter rather than merely pointing at them. Among the latter, there are several whose function is to manage aspects of the Interaction Situation. These include gestures whose function is to indicate to whom a current utterance is addressed, and several gestures that play a role in turn-taking: for instance, indicating that the speaker is holding the floor, or raising a hand to request a turn, or pointing to indicate the next to hold the floor.

This indicates the need for a mechanism that unifies all three cases, given the intuitive synonymy. Owner: displays three fresh fish on a platter Clark: points at one of them From Clark : example Owner: displays three fresh fish on a platter Clark: points at one of them That one. Owner: Which fish do you want for dinner?

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Clark: points at one of them That one. A : laughs. B: What do you mean he he? P1: my spine's like gestures spine shape 1. P2: like this? Finally, we note two interactions between phenomena described earlier: first, the possibility of quoting gesture, as in 29 :. I said erm is there a problem? Not a problem. Second, the finding of Cook et al.

To what extent is interaction a necessary feature of language acquisition? A far more difficult set of issues revolve around the fact that in a variety of cultures—e. And yet, language is acquired. Lieven argues that in such cultures language acquisition involves a significantly distinct trajectory.

The Primacy of Grammar by Nirmalangshu Mukherji

Nonetheless, despite anecdotal evidence suggesting slower development in such societies, there are various difficulties to compare rates of comprehension between the two types of developmental environments given different access to conversation for children. On the other hand, there is extensive evidence about differences in amount and type of utterances children are exposed to across distinct social socioeconomic status SES.

This is strongly correlated with speed of acquisition: by 3 years of age, the mean cumulative recorded vocabulary for the higher SES children was over words and for the lower SES children it was somewhat less than , whereas other studies show similar large effects on grammatical development e.

To this one can add important experimental and corpus-based work on the efficacy and ubiquity of error correcting interaction between parents and children. In a series of papers using a paradigm of teaching nonsense verbs to young children, Saxton et al. Saxton et al. On a larger scale, Chouinard and Clark show, based on a detailed longitudinal study of 5 English and French speaking children, that negative evidence is supplied to a high percentage of children's erroneous utterances at all levels phonological through syntactic.

An interaction—free view of grammar has to remain silent about such findings; approaches which view grammar as characterizing talk in interaction can correlate the quality of the interaction with speed and quality of intermediate states. Indeed, the repair notions we suggest belong in the grammar can, at least in principle, offer a basis for how interaction enables grammar modification to take place.

We hasten to add that these findings have not yet been tied into formal models of learning see e. But this reflects the current state of the art in this field. Broadly speaking, there are currently two main approaches to the acquisition of grammar.


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  6. There is nativism, inspired by Chomskyan assumptions Chomsky, ; Snyder, and there is the usage—based approach Tomasello, These two approaches differ radically on a number of dimensions: the nativist approach assumes the autonomy of syntax, whereas the usage—based approach takes constructions, conventionalized form-function units, as basic; for nativism the role of learning is limited to words and how these relate to Universal Grammar, whereas the usage-based approach highlights the importance of domain-general learning mechanisms such as analogy, entrenchment, and automatization.

    As things stand, however, neither nativist, nor the usage-based approach has advanced an explicit theory that would enable one to make clear predictions about how the grammatical system of a child evolves at various points as a result of conversational interaction with her carers or as an observer of such conversations. This is, in part, because, with very few exceptions Ginzburg and Moradlou, ; Jackendoff and Wittenberg, , the early stages of linguistic competence have not been formally described, presumably because of the significant challenge they pose for existing grammar frameworks.

    Earlier claims regarding e. The primary interest of neurolinguists, cognitive neuroscientists studying language, is to identify the areas involved in different aspects of language processing; and there is now converging evidence that several areas are involved, above all the frontal lobe e.

    Such evidence clearly does not support either the claim of a separate 'faculty of language,' or the existence of a division between competence and performance Grimaldi, Some of the aspects of language use that we are proposing are governed by grammar, in particular turn-taking, have been studied in the field of neuropragmatics Van Berkum, ; Bambini, but such studies show that the areas involved in such processing are the same, or very closely related, to those involved in aspects of language interpretation more traditionally accepted as involving competence.

    In fact, such studies tend to show that involvement in those aspects of language use results in greater activation of some of the areas associated with language processing. For instance, Jiang et al. And the comparison with face-to-face monolog strongly suggests that the difference in activation is primarily based on turn taking and body language. Evidence concerning the timing of these interpretive processes doesn't clearly support their isolation from conventional aspects of grammatical interpretation either. Evidence by, e.