easily imagined errors

Daniel L. Everett dever at VERB.LINGUIST.PITT.EDU
Sun Apr 20 16:57:01 UTC 1997


There is a large range of functionalist positions and a range of
formalist positions. Most of the literature on constructions, syntax,
etc. I see in the functionalist literature seems quite reasonable and
convincing to me. Talking about eliminating syntax is not something I see
as a general property of functionalism (any more than eliminating
cognition or semantics is a part of formalism). In fact, I think that as
we are all doing our honest best to understand language, we probably
agree more than we disagree.

But there is a slight danger in analyses of structures like "Daddy
home" --> "Is Daddy home" in terms of addition to cognitive units if by
that one means something other or more basic than a syntactic unit. That
could lead to a naive view that syntax is somehow epiphenomenal. But, if
noone took that view and if I mistakenly attributed it to Brian or anyone
else, then there is no problem.

I do not have any 'straw man' view of functionalism. I think that
functionalism is a vital approach to understanding language and grammar.
But there is as much danger of functionalists trivializing the many things
to be learned from formalism and formalism ignoring function. I think
that, more and more, the divide is less rigid. Most intelligent people
realize that you need both. Givon certainly does. So does Lakoff.  (And
perhaps no models better illustrate this than Optimality Theory and LFG.)

-- DLE

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