-chomsky argued for two kinds of rules- phrase structure rules and generate tree
structures and transformations that change one structure into another (ex. phase structure
rules generate sentences- the class did well on the exam- and a transformation turns it
into sentences- did the class do well on the exam?
•semantics- the study of meaning
1. Anomaly- why are some sentences meaningless?
2. Self-contradiction- why is it contradictory to say "my dog is not an animal", what
does contradictory mean?
3. Ambiguity- if I say “put your hat on my palm” why is it not clear where I want
you to put your hat (on my hand? Or on my tree?)
4. Synonymy- how do we know that “Fred is fatter than Barney” and “Barney is
thinner than Fred” mean the same thing, when their forms are quite different?
5. Entailment- how do we know that “Terry is pregnant” necessarily means that
Terry is female?
•pragmatics- this is about the social rules of language, including etiquette, and conventions
that guide conversations (the way you behave towards your best friend and your
1. Modularity by Fodor
-argued that cognitive processes such as perception and language are modular
-modular processes are halfway between reflexes and high-level processes such as decision
making (they are separated in your brain, can't stop them from happening (reflexes)/ they have
intellectual content (cognitive content)
-domain specific- they operate with certain kinds of input but not others
-informationally encapsulated- they operate independently of beliefs and other information
available to the processor (ex. if believe that studying hard will get you a good mark then you
will study vs. if physician hits you on the knee, your leg will go up)
-ex. knowing you are looking at a visual illusion doesn't prevent you from seeing that illusion
-fodor says that decision making is modular but verbal/visual perception are not
2. Productivity in grammars
-most accounts involve a set of rules that produce sentences....problem- the rules that generate
sentences are to powerful, they can generate many grammatical but meaningless sentences
-fodor- language stands all by itself, independent from everything else
Semantic context in sentence comprehension