The Bloomsbury companion to syntax by Luraghi S., Parodi C. (eds.)

By Luraghi S., Parodi C. (eds.)

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Weak Form-Function Isomorphism is based on assigning primacy to difference: differences in form always entail differences in underlying structure or in function. This methodological assumption rules out the possibility that two constructions are either variants of a single construction, or that two morphemes or constructions are synonymous. Yet processes of language change always involve coexistence of the new variant with the old variant, and for at least some period of time the two variants are grammatically and/or semantically equivalent in at least some contexts.

It is a good overall package—needing to be practiced well rather than badly, to be sure, but not in need of fundamental change. Linguists of all kinds are invited to use as much of it as they will. Notes 1. Much of this article is about what practicing generative linguists have internalized from what Chomsky has said over the years about how linguistics is best pursued. His influence on these matters is arguably even greater than on specific analyses. He has made the points in many ways over many years, and the references that I give are merely illustrative; they are not necessarily the earliest or the fullest expositions of these views.

In part, the difference in openness to more top-down, deductive approaches may reflect different readings of scientific practice, some inspired primarily by British empiricism; whereas generativists after Chomsky embrace Cartesian rationalist approaches as well. In particular, generative linguistics values a “Galilean” approach to science, in which prestige is attached to an abstract theory that is explicit and detailed enough to make novel predictions about phenomena which have not yet been observed, which are investigated and found out to be correct (or not, in which case one learns something and tries again) (Chomsky 1980: 2–10, 218–19).

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