Does the autonomy of linguistics rest on the autonomy of syntax?

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The presenting semiotic fact of language is its thoroughly indexical character, its contextualization as the mediating text or message in interactional context, necessitating the methods of the interpretative social and behavioral sciences. Farthest removed from this as an object of study is its semiotic character as theorized in the modern structural-functional tradition of linguistic theory that, since Saussure, has transformed from trying to explain the autonomy of diachronic phonetic change to modeling a synchronic system of mutually internally distributed categories of syntactic form. A critique of several approaches to bridging the chasm between these two semiotic poles of language re-situates the “autonomy of syntax” thesis as a small, though vital part of what linguistic theory needs to be about.


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