Grammars and Grammaticality

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At the outset, the goal of generative grammar was the explication of an intuitive concept grammaticality (Chomsky 1957:13). But psychological goals have become primary, referred to as “linguistic competence”, “language faculty”, or, more recently, “I-language”. Kac argues for the validity of the earlier goal of grammaticality and for a specific view of the relationship between the abstract, nonpsychological study of grammar and the investigation of the language faculty. The method of the book involves a formalization of traditional grammar, with emphasis on etiological analysis, that is, providing a “diagnosis” for any ungrammatical string of the type of ungrammaticality involved. Part I justifies this view and makes the logical foundations of etiological analysis explicit. Part II applies the theory to a diverse body of typically generativist data, among which are aspects of the English complement system and some problematic phenomena in coordinate structures. The volume includes pedagogical exercises and especially intriguing is a large analysis problem, originally constructed by Gerlad Sanders using data from Nama Hottentot, which exposes the reader to a syntax of extraordinary beauty.

Subjects: Syntax; Theoretical linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Minnesota

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