conversation and syntax
Frederick J Newmeyer
fjn at u.washington.edu
Thu Jun 5 18:53:38 UTC 2008
I think that some of you might be interested in the following paper of mine:
'What Conversational English Tells Us About the Nature of Grammar'
It has become an article of faith among many functional and cognitive linguists that the complex abstract structures posited by generative grammarians are an artifact of disembodied sentences that analysts have made up ad hoc,
rather than utterances produced by real people in real discourse situations (Michael Tomasello). Their view is that if one focuses on naturally occurring discourse, then grammar will reveal itself to be primarily a matter of memorized formulas and simple constructions. This paper challenges that view. Basing its claims on a 170MB corpus of conversational English, it argues that the nature of real discourse reinforces the need for a sophisticated engine for representing and accessing grammatical knowledge. At a more specific level, it challenges Sandra Thompsons claim that evidence from conversation leads to the conclusion that sentential complements (e.g., 'youre ready to go' in 'I guess youre ready to go') are not grammatically subordinate.
The paper can be accessed at the following url:
Frederick J. Newmeyer
Professor Emeritus, University of Washington
Adjunct Professor, University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University
[for my postal address, please contact me by e-mail]
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