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This book is a super rough read. I had to constantly refer to outside notes and explanations. Mar 24, People say my name should be Jeff rated it did not like it. I'm not commenting on the theory, I'm commenting on the writing. The book presents itself as an overview of the Minimalist Program, but actually assumes an education in formal linguistics. David Adger's "Core Syntax" is a much better introduction.

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Parser Implementation: One grammar, two systems

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Readers also enjoyed. About Noam Chomsky. Noam Chomsky. Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author, and lecturer. He is an Institute Professor and professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, considered to be one of the most significant contributions to the field of linguistics made in the 20th century.

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Robert Freidin and Howard Lasnik

This "dumbness" of the linguistic system is not even surprising if matters are, in some appropriate sense, the way I have been presenting them. In an interesting paper, Fukui extends these technical points to an equally technical point about physics. He emphasizes an analogy between Chomsky's economy of derivations and Maupertuis's principle of Least Action. One of Chomsky's main ideas is that alternative derivations in some precise sense that I describe immediately compete in grammaticality.

That recalls various scenarios in mechanics and optics where, of several alternative paths that an object or a beam of light may follow, only the optimal one is chosen. It is curious to note, as Schoemaker observes regarding these matters, that optimality principles in physics raised, virtually from the time they were proposed, the same sorts of questions that Chomsky's idea has, in the recent critical literature.

Some thoughts on economy within linguistics

Perhaps nobody expresses this so well as Feynman in his lectures, which Schoemaker appropriately cites p. The principle of least time is a completely different philosophical principle about the way nature works. Instead of saying it is a causal thing,.

Noam Chomsky - Minimalist Program: Status and Prospects

But what does it do, how does it find out? Does it smell the nearby paths, and check them against each other? The answer is, yes. Needless to say, Feynman's little joke at the end comes from the fact that he has a quantum-mechanical explanation. I only wish I had such a quantum-mechanical explanation about Chomsky's optimal derivation smelling the nearby alternatives; unfortunately I don't. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if there is one, even outside the reach of present-day science.


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In fact, Chomsky's derivations are behaving somewhat like beams of light in an even more obvious way. But how can that be, if the sentences involve exactly the same words and exactly the same numbers of mergers and movements? Topmost is the chunk of structure that both derivations share, with the remaining words to be used in a lexical array which Chomsky calls a numeration. In 3a we see how someone moves, leaving a parenthesized copy or trace, while in 3b there is inserted instead.

Assuming non-trivially that movement is more expensive than merging, then it is clear that 3a is outranked by 3b. But now consider 3a' , the continuation of 3a ; here, there is merged, while in 3b' , the continuation of 3b , there moves leaving a trace behind.

The Minimalist Program

It doesn't matter. Chomsky invites us to think of derivations as unfolding in successive cascades of structural dependency, narrowing down the "derivational horizon", as it were, as further decisions are made. Intuitively, the horizon is completely open when no words are arranged into a phrase-marker, and it shrinks down as some words are attached e. Only derivations with the same derivational horizon compete, like 3a and 3b. By the time we're asking 3a' and 3b' to compete they are already part of two entirely different derivational histories, like those science fiction characters that get killed in a parallel universe but still make it in this one.

To see that light behaves in similar ways, consider an illustration of Feynman's that is meant to show why often the path of least action is not the shortest. You're lying on the beach and suddenly somebody starts drowning two hundred yards to your left. What do you do, run in a straight line? Not so, because swimming is harder than running; you run the shore until a critical point, and then you swim. Light acts somewhat similarly when going from air to water, maximizing the "easy" path vis-a-vis the "difficult" one across a denser material , even if the combined path is not the shortest.

But now imagine a more complicated scenario. You're still on the beach, but suddenly you see somebody trapped inside a building on fire; you could run directly to the building, or actually take a small detour to the water and then go inside the building.


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Here, obviously, you first get wet, and then run to save the person on fire. Light doesn't have such a "look ahead".

Perspective ARTICLE

You can construct scenarios where it would have to transverse three media, say air, oil, and water, in such a way that you could optimize the total path by doing this, that, or the other. But what light does instead is optimize the transition from air to oil, and as its traveling horizon narrows that is, whatever the result of that first transition is , a new optimization takes place for the transition from oil to water. I make much of this syntactic dumbness as opposed to the interpretive smartness of semantics, say , as an argument not just for the autonomy of syntax, but in fact for its primacy as well.

Many, if not all of Chomsky's core principles could be seen in this light. His Inclusiveness Condition, that "any structure formed by the computation. His Last Resort condition, "that computational operations must be driven by some condition on representations, as a 'last resort' to overcome failure to meet such a condition" p. Then again, the alternatives denying the facts, blaming adaptations, going metaphysical don't seem all that promising.

What does it all mean, though? I do know, however, what it does not mean. In this respect, I think it is rather interesting that, if something makes the Minimalist Program different from the Principles and Parameters model, which it springs from, that is the new reliance on economy, rather than the modules of the predecessor. Where one found Theta, Case, Binding, and similar modules, one now seeks just economy in different guises or pushing the phenomenon out of narrow syntax.

This is rather crucial.