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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Academic slapdowns are my favorite

July 19th, 2009 by Kit

One can in fact view construction-based theories of syntax as upholding standards of grammar coverage that the original proponents of generative grammar abandoned, as they sought to reduce the theory’s dependence on linguistic facts. Chomsky (1995: 435) describes this shift in the goals of grammarians as follows:  “A look at the earliest work from the mid-1950s will show that many phenomena that fell within the rich descriptive apparatus then postulated, often with accounts of no little interest and insight, lack any serious analysis within the much narrower theories motivated by the search for explanatory adequacy, and remain among the huge mass of constructions for which no principled explanation exists—again, not an unusual concomitant of progress”. It seems safe to say that most proponents of construction-based syntax would not consider the loss of insightful and interesting accounts a mark of progress, and find the search for putatively narrower theories of explanatory adequacy unrequited.

From Kay & Michaelis, forthcoming.  I am in love with construction grammar.  Just re-read the first sentence there.  That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long while.  I think I might just be an academic at heart.  (But it’s funny because it’s true!)

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  • Elizabeth

    I haven’t actually studied much of construction grammar but here at Berkeley, you can barely walk down a hall without tripping over a mention of it, here or there. Yesterday saw a construction grammar analysis of Ojibwe verbs.

  • kit

    That’s why I want to be at Berkeley. I even have specific research ideas and everything. You’re at the Linguistic Institute, yes?

  • Elizabeth

    Yes, the Institute is where I am, trying to figure out how one approaches a three week class (they go by so quickly! you blink and you’ve missed it). Oh, you should do it. It’s really nice here, both in terms of the area and the department, from what I have seen. Not so much with the formal semantics (hence it not being on my list), but other than that, everything seems good.

    And for fun activities, there is a really friendly contra scene here, too. I danced with an engineer who makes tiny little coal generators to fit inside individual buildings.

  • Mair

    We (on the other side of the candy store window) must say “funny is as funny seems”…..
    It is a good insight into Chomsky for me, though, and for that I thank thee.

  • kit

    Trust me, it’s hilarious 🙂

    The degree to which Chomsky cannot write clearly to save his life astounds me, especially considering how much he has written, and how much editing of his writing he has been exposed to!