recursion, definitions of
gil at EVA.MPG.DE
Thu Dec 7 18:00:11 UTC 2006
I am seeking bibliographical references to definitions of recursion in
grammar, primarily in syntax, but also in discourse and morphology.
My motivation stems from what seems to be a lack of clarity (or is it
just me?) with regard to what kinds of constructions qualify for
characterization as recursive. The prototypical example of recursion
seems to be that in (1) below, but what about the subsequent examples:
do they also instantiate recursion?
(1) embedded sentential complements (eg. "John said that Bill thinks
that Mary claimed that ...")
(2) stacked modifiers of various kinds (eg. "big fat ugly purple ...
thing", "very very very very ... tall")
(3) hierarchic coordination, either with or without an overt coordinator
(eg. "John and [either Bill or [John and ... ] ] ")
(4) flat coordination, either with or without an overt coordinator (eg.
"John, Bill, Mary ... and Sue")
(5) "Papuan-style" clause chaining constructions, of the form
S[non-finite] S[non-finite] S[non-finite] .... S[finite]
(6) the simple string of sentences occurring in any narrative text in
(7) multiple iteration (eg. "ran and ran and ran and ...")
(8) multiple reduplication (in those rare cases where there is no limit
to the number of times a word-internal element may be repeated).
What I'd like to find out is whether examples such as the above satisfy
various definitions of recursion that, hopefully, you might be able to
point me to.
I'd also be interested in your opinions with regard to whether a
definition of recursion in grammar *should* encompass each of the above
As I understand it, the "standard" definition, involving a "rewrite
rule" with an identical symbol on either side of the arrow, is
sufficiently broad as to encompass all of the above examples. Is that
right? And if so, is that desirable?
My interest in recursion is both typological, wishing to be able to
evaluate claims to the effect that languages may vary with respect to
their tolerance of recursion, and also evolutionary, wishing to
formulate hypotheses regarding the development of recursion in
Department of Linguistics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
Email: gil at eva.mpg.de
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