Ellen Contini-Morava elc9j at
Tue Oct 26 00:36:10 UTC 2010

As to whether function without structure is utter nonsense, that depends 
on what you mean by "structure".  If the "structure" emerges from a 
theory that does not take functional motivation into account, then a 
functionalist can justifiably question its validity.  I would also 
hesitate to describe anything Erica GarcĂ­a said as nonsense.  For a 
meticulously worked out and functionally grounded analysis, check out 
her last work, the Motivated Syntax of Arbitrary Signs (John Benjamins 
2009).  [Full disclosure:  I'm a co-editor of the book series it appears 


On 10/25/2010 11:18 AM, Tom Givon wrote:
> One could of course say a few more things in retrospect. Functionalist,
> my earlier self included, have been prone to throw the baby out with the
> bathwater. That is, to ignore or deny the structural (= formal)
> properties of grammar just because Chomsky chose to emphasize them
> exclusively. The epitome of this was the late Erica Gracia's exhortation
> to "function without structure", a sentiment that continue to haunt many
> functionalists' work. The most cursory perusal of the history of
> biology, beginning with Aristotle's placing the on firm functionalist (=
> adaptive) foundations 2,300 years ago, ought to convince us that this is
> utter logical nonsense.

Ellen Contini-Morava
Professor, Anthropology Department
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400120
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4120
phone:  +1 (434) 924-6825
fax:    +1 (434) 924-1350

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