Abstract: In this paper, I outline an approach
to the study of thought from a syntactic point of view. I propose that
sentences (in the sense of generative syntax) are thoughts. Under that
assumption, I use natural language syntax as a probe into the structure of our
thoughts, and show how such a probe sheds light on how we make deductions and our
capacity for imagination.
The specific technical proposals in Chomsky's thesis, LSLT and Syntactic Structures are far less important than the kinds of questions that Chomsky started to ask that led him to those proposals. Those questions where roughly: What is the generative system that we need to postulate to account for the data? How can we argue for one generative system over another? What is the relation of this generative system to the speakers's ability to use language? These were completely new questions (as I understand it). The analysis of the auxiliary system in Syntactic Structures was a kind of proof of concept showing the value of this shift in research questions, but the shift itself was the most important thing. And of course, the important discoveries of the subsequent years were a direct consequence of the shift in the questions asked.
March 31, 2021
If you cite a reference in the text, use page numbers (e.g., Clements 1975: 140). Doing so helps the reader look up the information that you cite. If the whole book or paper is relevant, the page number can be omitted (e.g., “Chomsky 1957 marks the beginning of generative syntax.”).
December 12, 2020
Get your hands dirty! When faced with a syntactic problem, turn it inside out.
Generate a large number of sentences and test them for acceptability.
Be adventurous, and you might discover something really interesting.
November 13, 2020
Don't be afraid to say "I don't know." These words will liberate you,
and pretending you know something when you don't will imprison you.
October 26, 2020
Be prepared to be perplexed by simple and obvious facts.
Be willing to admit that you do not have an explanation for those facts.
September 8, 2020
Writing syntax papers takes lots of practice. It may take you four or five attempts (in trying to write different papers) to catch on, and even then there will be lots of room for improvement.
April 23, 2020 The secret to getting grants in linguistics: If you apply for four grants (including reapplications), then on average three will be declined and one awarded. April 7, 2020 Here is a skill syntax students should know: Suppose there is an analysis involving A'-movement of an empty operator. Show that the proposed A'-movement is subject to island constraints. December 29, 2019 If you are looking for a syntax topic, go to the border wars. For example, there are many interesting problems at the syntax-semantics interface (implicit arguments, anaphora, negation), that have alternative syntactic and semantic analyses. And the other borders are just as volatile: syntax-morphology, syntax-phonology and syntax-pragmatics. December 25, 2019
Grammaticality judgments should be given in context. A sentence judged as marginal or ungrammatical out of context (out of the blue) might seem better in context. A skill that syntacticians develop is to find contexts that render a sentence grammatical, if there are any.
The EPP can be a vexing principle for early practitioners
of Chomskyan syntactic theories. This is, in part, because the theoretic
apparatus that underlie the EPP have been shifted away from. Yet, the EPP in
some form generally remains. Thus, the goal of this blog post is to sketch a
brief history of the EPP and outline its current status. I will also discuss
some remaining potential issues with the EPP.
blog post is a prelude to future blog post: Why Video? In that blog post I will
tackle the question of why a generative syntactician, like me, should care
about video? But before I get to that point, I need to tackle some background
issues concerning the source of data in syntactic fieldwork.
a Peace Corps volunteer in Togo from 1985 to 1987. Here is a short list of things I
learned then that have been helpful to me in doing linguistic fieldwork ever
since (especially in Togo, Namibia and Botswana).
is my solar power set up for 2019-2020. Some of this post is modified from a
Facebook post on December 19, 2015, when I had a similar set-up. The whole system
cost roughly 740 US dollars (panel, inverter, controller and battery). There
are photos of the set-up at the end of the post.
a linguist doing linguistic fieldwork on highly endangered Khoisan languages. Part
of my project is to produce video documentation of people speaking those
beginning film maker, I have found the following tips to be useful in obtaining
high quality sound recordings to accompany video. I have learned most of these
the hard way, by actually making mistakes.