syntax: functional vs generative

Phil Young pyoung at
Mon Jun 1 18:10:55 UTC 2009

Hi Shannon,

I am a cultural anthropologist but with, I believe, a better than average knowledge of linguistics. The way I see it, an introductory course does not a department define. The question of how a department defines itself in terms of theoretical perspective and major course offerings is separate from the question of content for an introductory course.

In my view an introductory syntax course should provide students with introductory exposure to both generative and functional approaches, their strengths, limitations, and some account of the major critiques proponents of each view have leveled at the other. Beyond this, an introductory syntax course should also expose students to some of the literature on the acquisition of language by children (which reveals a progression, to oversimplify, from single words to complex syntax), and also exposure to recent important work on the evolution of syntactic complexity (e.g., Heine & Kuteva (2007), Givon (2009)).

My 2 cents worth. I'm sure Tomas will correct me if he thinks I'm off the mark here.


Phil Young
pyoung at

More information about the Funknet mailing list