Esa Itkonen eitkonen at UTU.FI
Tue Apr 25 08:08:06 UTC 2000

How did 'formalism' get started, in the first place? It got
started when Chomsky claimed in the early 60's that the basic
terms of syntax (= S, NP, VP, N, V, etc.) need not be defined
as long as 'the system works'. This was claimed in ANALOGY with
the axiomatization of Newtonian physics (popularized at the time
by Nagel, Hempel, and others). However, this ANALOGY was
misconceived from the start. In reality, the cross-linguistic
framework required all the time an implicit reliance on such
NON-formal notions as thing vs. action, reference vs. predication,
agent vs. patient, human vs. non-human, etc. 'Functionalism' has
'only' made explicit what had previously been implicit.
'Functionalism' has 'only' done this, but to me it seems a lot. I
may be mistaken, but it seems at least possible that, in the
opinion of those who disagree with me, some additional obscurity
will be shed on the issue in my forthcoming book 'Analogy inside
linguistics and outside'.

Esa Itkonen

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