Rule-List Fallacy

Tom Givon tgivon at
Wed Jun 18 20:30:30 UTC 2008

It seems to me that this discussion gravitates, slowly but surely, 
towards an empirical vacuum. Perhaps a better learning strategy for all 
of us would be to concede that, in principle, both holistic and analyzed 
processing of complex expressions are in principle ('cognitively') 
available to speakers. Then find methods by which we can tell one 
strategy (as used by speakers/hearers) from the other; then find 
contexts that induce speakers/hearers to prefer one strategy over the 
other; and then--voila, denouement--count the frequency distribution of 
the two types of behavior in various contexts. To simply express 
personal preference for one over the other as 'the default strategy' is 
not all that helpful. Cheers,  TG


David Tuggy wrote:
> Edith Moravcsik wrote:
>> <snip>If we did not know that these expressions might be analyzed by 
>> linguists as multi-part phrases, there would be nothing suprising 
>> about how people treat them; and we would lose the interesting 
>> question of why linguists' analyses and people's ways of processing 
>> these expressions parted ways.
>> The same holds for formulaic expressions in general. The reason it is 
>> interesting that people treat them as atomic wholes is that we 
>> linguists can analyze them as having parts.
> Well, it is also interesting that people can also analyze them as 
> having parts. Linguists are people too, of course, but non-linguist 
> people are often quite aware of parts of formulaic structures. The 
> fact that both modes are available (though perhaps differentially 
> attractive) to both linguists and language speakers is, I would 
> maintain, highly important (as well as interesting).
> --David Tuuggy

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