What am I doing with a blog?

Awww…heck. I dunno.

okay, fine. I will. March 22, 2007

Filed under: linguistics,school — himbly @ 8:33 pm

Since I should be marking assignments right now and I’m trying to find anything on this great, green earth that will prevent me from doing so…I will. Skip this post if you don’t care about ling…or syntax.

It’s not me…it’s the Strongbow writing.

So…project number one: Syntax Term Paper.

Since I’m doing my thesis in child language acquisition, I am doing all my papers…whatever class they are in…in child language acquistion. Now, my thesis is in child phonology (sounds and such). So, when I’m in syntax, child acquisition of whatever is going to be pretty far from what my interests are.

Okay. So.

For those of you who have not had the pleasure, syntax is the study of sentence structure. Now, when I was an undergrad oh…so many moons ago…like a decades worth…I was taught Government and Binding Theory. This included a type of sentence tree that fell under what we called X-bar Theory. What was that like? Who cares, nevermind. Now, we have switched over to Minimalist Theory. Now..for you lefties out there…both of these theories (and the popular ones before it) were created by Noam Chomsky…he’s a busy man.

My opinions on Chomsky may be another post.

Ummm…I should go over Universal Grammar. Universal Grammar is the idea that language is innate. Not specific languages, mind you, and not degrees of those languages (ie. some people learn language better than others). No. Basically what UG tells us that there are parts of language in our brain already and all we need is the lexicon to figure out what’s going on. If that sounds crazy, I’ll have to admit a/ that I”m not doing the theory justice in a couple of sentences and b/ I don’t believe it anymore, anyway. But it’s what many linguists believe.

Now. Within G&B theory, there is a big thing called Binding Theory. That’s what the Binding part in G&B Theory is. Binding theory is all about pronouns and reflexives (like himself/herself) and goes a little like this. Reflexives (himself/herself) can only be a part of the sentence if they are ‘close’ to the thing it’s refering to and pronouns (he, she, it, him, her, etc) can’t be close to the thing that it’s refering to. Here: WikiBindingTheory. Actually, here….this is better.

Okay…so we have binding principles A, B, C…as shown in my second link. My paper is about how kids learn this. Now, if you believe in UG, which I don’t think I do, then it’s not really fun to read how each of these principles are something that we’re born with and know as soon as we figure out what he, she, it, himself, etc means. This is what a HUGE paper I’m reading says, though. That any errors that kids make in Principle B (that pronouns can’t be bound locally) is not an error of the syntax…it can’t be. It’s in their brain.

I say ‘bullshit’. It is not. And, turns out it doesn’t matter because with the dawn of Minimalism, Binding Theory has big troubles. Binding is no longer relevant. According to some people, and one of those ‘some people’ is a paper I presented today and, although I thought I understood what he was saying, I clearly didn’t. Hence my current Strongbow drinking.

So…what does this mean? This means that the people who thought that Binding Theory was something that we were born with will have troubles. It means that probably we were not born with three rules that told us where to put pronouns, reflexives, and r-expressions.


Okay, so basically…what I’m doing is looking at what people found kids do under the old theory, and then trying to see how it works under the new theory. “Someone, surely, has done that!”, you say. I say, this is linguistics. There’s only a handful of people who do anything at any time. So, no. As far as I”m aware, and my prof, no one has. I predict I”m going to find some troubles for those who were so closely bound to binding theory.

In other news, a friend of mine at school had his roommate’s pet rabbit hump his arm.


6 Responses to “okay, fine. I will.”

  1. Jaŋari Says:

    But it’s what many linguists believe.

    Maybe in the US, but everywhere else (mostly) LFG is the current thing. And by the way, there really isn’t much difference between minimalism and G&B, they’re all based on the same flawed assumptions.

  2. himbly Says:

    I’m not a syntactician…I’ve heard of LFG, but what’s the deal with it?

    I’ve also heard that the US (and Canada, where I am) is very Chomskian while Europe and California have different ideas. I’m not even sure about the rest of the world. hehe…could you give me a description of LFG in 25 words or less?

  3. himbly Says:

    What I “like” about Minimalism, by the way, are the motivations for mov’t. But…I’m not convinced by it, really.

  4. himbly Says:

    Okay…I think I’m starting to remember. I read about LFG because of Sadock’s Auto-Lexcial Syntax stuff. I think he uses LFG to do the ‘syntax’ part of that. So, it’s still around? From what I can remember, it’s non-transformational, right? Like, no D-structure?

  5. Jaŋari Says:

    25 words or less?! Far out!
    Wikipedia has a pretty good summary. The main point (as far as I see it) is that instead of boiling everything down to phrase structure, thereby creating all different types of phrase structures by movement, LFG uses several levels of representation, each with independent properties. The main ones are f(unctional)-structure and c(onstituent)-structure.

    F-structure is the level that represents the various ‘functions’ or categories of any given constituent (even a whole sentence) in attribute-value style tables.
    “Am” for instance, is represented as contributing (to the overall predicate) the functions subject number = 1, subject person = 1, tense = pres.

    I also use a(rgument)-structure in my work, which is the level that maps the thematic arguments, like agent and patient, into grammatical function slots, like subject and object. Another structure might then map those onto language-specific categories like nominative, or ergative.

    It’s basically all very complicated, and I don’t know enough to do it justice. And I’ve used way more than 25 words.

  6. himbly Says:


    I”ll read the wiki entry and get back to you on it, but it sounds a bit like there’s some formal semantics in there…what with all the functions and arguments and stuff.

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