Henrik Rosenkvist Henrik.Rosenkvist at
Mon Oct 25 09:22:36 UTC 2010


Some quotes from Talmy Givón, that might be of interest:

[...] after first trivializing the notions of theory and explanation, 
transformational-generative linguistics proceeded to trivialize the 
notion of data beyond all recognition. What followed was an orgy of 
empirical irresponsibility [...] with linguistics as a whole becoming a 
sad caricature of late medieval scholasticism (Givón 1979:26).

"When this volume was written in the early 1980s, I thought it was 
possible to treat grammar responsibly, in terms of both its adaptive 
motivation and typological diversity, without an explicit account of the 
more formal aspects of syntactic structure. These aspects – 
constituency, hierarchy, grammatical relations, clause-union, finiteness 
and syntactic control – were matters I took for granted but chose to 
defer. In retrospect, it was a bad mistake." (Givón 2001:xv)

"[...] functions without structures are downright lame" (Givón 2001:xv)

"The research program outlined here pays heed to Chomsky's exhortation 
to seek universal principles, while affirming the mental reality of 
syntactic structures" (2001:xvi).

I think one can see true development here...

Henrik R.

john at skrev:
> Dick,
> (1) Chomsky's descriptive observations about nominalizations were not at all
> original--Jespersen made the same observations.
> (2) The observations about island constraints were from Haj Ross' thesis.
> (3) The competence/performance distinction is basically Saussure's
> langue/parole.
> (4) At Penn (where I studied) it was commonly acknowledged that the idea
> of generative grammar was lifted from Zelig Harris (Chomsky's mentor there),
> although I'm not sure that I believe this.
> John
> Quoting Richard Hudson <dick at>:
>> Thanks Aya, Alex and Mark for your views. It's very odd for me to be
>> defending Chomsky, since I've spent most of my life criticising him, but
>> he's an ordinary human being just like the rest of us, with good points
>> and bad points. When I said he couldn't be all wrong, I actually meant
>> he wasn't all wrong - I can easily think of plenty of things that he did
>> that were right, and inspired good work.
>> My personal list of achievements by Chomsky:
>> - His 1970 article on nominalisation, with its clear distinction between
>> gerunds and nominalisations.
>> - His insights into the structure of the English auxiliary system (but
>> not his morpheme-based analysis).
>> - His observations on island constraints in syntax - but not his
>> conclusions.
>> - His contrast between knowledge (competence) and behaviour
>> (performance) - but not his catch-all use of 'performance'.
>> - His idea of formal 'generative' grammar - but not his later
>> abandonment of the substance.
>> I dare say I could add some more if I thought a bit longer. These are
>> all things that he did which influenced my own (generally non-Chomskyan)
>> work, and which I know have influenced plenty of other non-Chomskyans.
>> And I don't agree that the whole field is so dominated by his doctrines
>> that other views can't be heard - just think of all the books and
>> articles and university departments oriented towards other approaches,
>> from non-Chomskyan formal theories such as HPSG and LFG, to
>> non-Chomskyan informal work on discourse and the like. I'm sure some
>> people on this list both disagree with Chomsky and have tenure.
>> Dick Hudson
>> --
>> Richard Hudson
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Henrik Rosenkvist
docent, nordiska språk
Språk- och litteraturcentrum
Lunds universitet
Box 201
221 00 Lund
tel: 046-222 87 04
e-post: Henrik.Rosenkvist at

Henrik Rosenkvist
Associate Professor, Scandinavian Languages
Dept. of Languages and Literature
Lund University
P. O. Box 201, SE-221 00 Lund, SWEDEN
Tel.: +46 46 222 87 04
E-mail: Henrik.Rosenkvist at

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