Language, structure, blending

Scott Sadowsky lists at SPANISHTRANSLATOR.ORG
Tue Mar 19 19:50:30 UTC 2002

Benjamin Fortson:
>But at least consider the output and its structure, which is not a source
>of debate: the whole reason people started to think along these lines, and
>have been able to engage in linguistic analysis since at least the time of
>the dawn of writing, is that the output ("language" or whatever you want
>to call it) has elements ("structures" if you will) that combine in
>certain ways, and certain ways only (another type of "structure"), and
>that we have intuitions about combinations that are somehow garbled or "wrong".

Indeed.  It would be intriguing, to say the least, to see what sort of
language analysis could be performed without using the concept of
structure.  Could it possibly avoid being the linguistic equivalent of
Lamarckian biology?

The objection to the existence of structure in language that we have seen
here seems to be the result of misinterpreting a metaphor, intentionally or
not, as a literal affirmation, and then denouncing the metaphor for not
being identical to the literal affirmation.

Gerald Cohen:
>It is clear that the distinction structure vs. function has relevance in
>biology, e.g. the structure of the liver vs. its functions; but it is not
>at all clear that this distinction can be applied with equal success in

A nice, clear example of the applicability of the concept of structure to
language can be found in morphosyntax.  The function of a conditional
marker is to tell us that something could, but will not necessarily,
happen.  The structure of said marker in English is the lexical item
"would".  In Spanish it's the morpheme -ría.  Etc.


Scott Sadowsky  --  Spanish-English / English-Spanish Translator

sadowsky at · sadowsky at
"I often quote myself; it adds spice to my conversation."
   -- George Bernard Shaw

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