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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.


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.