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Chapter 5

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McGill University
LING 200
Maire Noonan

LING 200 Introduction to the Study of Language Chapter 5 General Requirements on Grammars Because we uncover the rules of language buried in the mind, we have to discover them by modeling and hypothesis formation and testing common to all scientific endeavors Uses aspects such as speaker judgments concerning the grammaticality of utterances, the language acquisition by children, neurology, and any domain that might help in constructing a coherent biologically plausible of human language Biolonguistics welcomes finings from any domain that may help in constructing a coherent and biologically plausible model for human language including its acquisition by children Precise formulation • By pushing a precise but inadequate formulation, we can often find out what exactly it is that makes it inadequate, and therefore help us make a better formulation next time and so on • A positive formulation might end up providing solutions for many other problems other than those for which it was explicitly designed Insufficiently models, when formulated precisely, can provide insight Universality The ultimate goal of linguistic analysis "should be a theory in which the descriptive devices utilized in particular grammars are presented and studied abstractly with no specific reference to particular languages” This is the idea of Universal Grammar Independence from Meaning When we analyzed the Warlpiri and Samoan nouns and plurals, we came up with the rules independently of their meanings Syntactic rules: rules that dictate the way in which sentences are constructed in various languages Morphological rules: rules pertaining to word formation, prefixing, suffixing and reduplication Syntax: the arrangement of words in sentences – here structure and meaning are not seperable • It is hard for people to accept that syntax can be discussed without meaning Structure and meaning should be separable Colorless green ideas sleep furiously  structured like a sentence, makes no sense Furiously sleep ideas green colorless  equally senseless, but also structureless Grammaticality is not related to meaning and is not an absolute notion  grammatical plural in Warlpiri is not a grammatical plural in Telugu It is also not related to the probability of the sentence being uttered: I saw a fragile whale, I saw a fragile of • Both have low chances of being uttered except the first one is grammatical whereas the second one isn't There is no such thing as an ungrammatical sentence because a sentence is a string of words that is generated by a given grammar • Ungrammatical sentence is not a sentence, just a string of words • Grammatical sentence is one that has a higher probability of being uttered • Grammars produce strings of words that are called sentences that are by definition grammatical Patterns of language can be studied independently of meaning and probability • Applies to morphological rules, phonological rules and syntactic rules Finiteness Human life is finite • Longest sentence ever uttered by any person (or will be uttered) is finite in length • All sentences are finite in length, and there is a finite number of sentences uttered by any person • Limits on sentence length and number of sentences a person can pronounce have nothing to do with the nature of grammar • However, there is no reason to build into a grammar itself a way to limit the length of sentences • The grammar doesn't have to account for finite sentences, but it has to be finite in size in order to be encoded in our finite brains Mortality: limits on observable sentence length and the size of the output corpus of any individual person Grammars are encoded in the finite brains that we have, and this does require that the grammars themselves be finite in size The stress algorithm
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