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Article

Generative Grammar  

Knut Tarald Taraldsen

This article presents different types of generative grammar that can be used as models of natural languages focusing on a small subset of all the systems that have been devised. The central idea behind generative grammar may be rendered in the words of Richard Montague: “I reject the contention that an important theoretical difference exists between formal and natural languages” (“Universal Grammar,” Theoria, 36 [1970], 373–398).

Article

The Reception of Generativism in Romance Linguistics  

Diego Pescarini

The reception of generativism in Romance linguistics has been uneven. In the field of morphophonology, scholars were engaging in the discussion about the tenets of generative phonology as early as the 1960s. Structuralist and generative phonologists spoke a mutually understandable metalanguage and worked on agreed-upon empirical facts. Generative syntacticians, by contrast, developed a far more intricate and technical metalanguage by exploring little-known phenomena or by turning apparently trivial facts into theoretically appealing issues. As a result, the reception of generativism in Romance syntax has been almost pathological: Generative and “traditional” Romance scholars have kept working on similar phenomena but from irreconcilable perspectives. Findings and ideas have often been discussed in separate venues and largely incommunicable terms. The reasons for this mutual indifference (rather than overt antipathy) are quite understandable. On the one hand, scholars with a historical/philological background, working on change and variation, had little or no interest in a model of synchronic competence detached from the cultural heritage of linguistic communities. Moreover, the highly technical style of generativist studies—mostly in English—hindered the diffusion of generative ideas beyond the circle of practitioners. On the other hand, generative grammarians have always had the tendency to exploit Romance data as a test bed for their theories, sometimes ignoring or downplaying the contribution of previous descriptive studies. From a generative standpoint, Romance linguistics has always been instrumental in improving theoretical linguistics, not the other way around. The relationship between the communities of Romance linguists and generativists has evolved over time. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the debate was vivid, as witnessed by conference proceedings and articles focusing on the most theoretical aspects of transformational grammar and generative (morpho)phonology, in particular with respect to the analysis of linguistic change and reconstruction. With some remarkable exceptions, however, generative ideas and methods were not readily implemented, and the history of the reception of generativism in Romance linguistics since the early 1980s can more easily be reconstructed from lacunae than documents. In this scenario, collaborative projects featuring generative and nongenerative linguists stand out, because they not only are rare but also yield exceptional results such as the Grande Grammatica Italiana di Consultazione or the Gramática Descriptiva de la Lengua Española, which are recognized reference works for both communities.

Article

Verb Positions and Basic Clause Structure in Germanic  

Jan-Wouter Zwart

The syntax of the modern Germanic languages is characterized by a word order pattern whereby the finite verb appears to the immediate right of the first constituent (“verb second” or V2). In canonical verb-second languages (German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Frisian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish), verb second is limited to main clauses, yielding a main-embedded clause asymmetry, characteristic of the syntax of many Germanic languages. In the standard generative analysis, dating from the 1970s, the derivation of the verb-second pattern involves two ordered steps: (a) verb movement to the complementizer position C and (b) phrasal movement of an arbitrary constituent to the specifier position of the complementizer phrase. While this analysis remains a popular starting point for generative treatments of Germanic verb second, later developments have posed serious problems for the approach. These developments include (a) the articulation of a more detailed structure of the functional domain of the clause, providing a range of possible landing sites for the finite verb in verb-second clauses; (b) higher standards of descriptive and explanatory adequacy, necessitating well-motivated triggers for each individual movement step; (c) the development of the minimalist program, involving a sharper definition of what counts as syntactic operations, allowing for the possibility that certain processes previously considered syntactic are now better regarded as post-syntactic linearization processes; and (d) the widening of the empirical scope of verb-second research, including a range of related phenomena (such as verb-first or verb-third orders) not easily accommodated within the traditional frame. These developments make the study of verb second an exciting field in current syntactic theory, in which the varied and well-studied phenomena of Germanic continue to provide a fertile ground for the advancement of theory and description.

Article

Corpus Phonology  

Jacques Durand

Corpus Phonology is an approach to phonology that places corpora at the center of phonological research. Some practitioners of corpus phonology see corpora as the only object of investigation; others use corpora alongside other available techniques (for instance, intuitions, psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic experimentation, laboratory phonology, the study of the acquisition of phonology or of language pathology, etc.). Whatever version of corpus phonology one advocates, corpora have become part and parcel of the modern research environment, and their construction and exploitation has been modified by the multidisciplinary advances made within various fields. Indeed, for the study of spoken usage, the term ‘corpus’ should nowadays only be applied to bodies of data meeting certain technical requirements, even if corpora of spoken usage are by no means new and coincide with the birth of recording techniques. It is therefore essential to understand what criteria must be met by a modern corpus (quality of recordings, diversity of speech situations, ethical guidelines, time-alignment with transcriptions and annotations, etc.) and what tools are available to researchers. Once these requirements are met, the way is open to varying and possibly conflicting uses of spoken corpora by phonological practitioners. A traditional stance in theoretical phonology sees the data as a degenerate version of a more abstract underlying system, but more and more researchers within various frameworks (e.g., usage-based approaches, exemplar models, stochastic Optimality Theory, sociophonetics) are constructing models that tightly bind phonological competence to language use, rely heavily on quantitative information, and attempt to account for intra-speaker and inter-speaker variation. This renders corpora essential to phonological research and not a mere adjunct to the phonological description of the languages of the world.