Download Grammatical Theory in the United States: From Bloomfield to by P. H. Matthews PDF

By P. H. Matthews

This can be a historical past of the unfold and dominance of North American linguistic thought, focusing on the influential rules of Bloomfield and Chomsky. It supplies an account of the improvement and continuity of 3 dominant principles in linguistics: the learn of formal kin can and may be separated from that of which means; sentences are composed of linear configurations of morphemes; many points of grammar are decided genetically. this can be a useful survey for all linguists wishing to track the origins in their self-discipline.

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Additional info for Grammatical Theory in the United States: From Bloomfield to Chomsky

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Moreover, the exclusion of meaning from descriptive linguistics ostensibly had nothing to do with the rejection of mentalism. The reason Trager gave was that the study of meanings was necessarily interdisciplinary. It was 'dependent on the formulations of other cultural systems than language' (1949: 7). Similarly, in Harris's account of meaning, one would have to depend on other disciplines for the identification of 'social, cultural and interpersonal' features. The second issue is whether an account of the formal structure of a language can be given independently of an account of meanings.

Instead it was sufficient that it should provide an 'evaluation procedure' which, 'given a corpus and given two proposed grammars', will 'tell us which is the better grammar of the language from which the corpus is drawn' (Chomsky, 1957: 51). A description is therefore justified in just the sense that, for a given body of data, no better grammar has been found. This simple argument stood Post-Bloomfieldian linguistics on its head. It had always been important, naturally, that what Trager had called a 'descriptive grammar' (1949: 4) should describe the language accurately.

But we will not understand it unless we realise that the impact of Kuhn's book became a part of its history, and partly obscured its real origins. If we look first at American linguistics in general, one obvious feature of the 1960s is the growth of separate schools. Earlier in this survey I referred to Bloomfield's essay on the occasion of the twenty-first anniversary of the Linguistic Society, in which he suggested that it had helped to prevent such a development. He went on to explain that 'when several American linguists find themselves sharing some interest or opinion, they do not make it into a King Charles's Head, proclaiming themselves a "school" and denouncing all persons who disagree or who merely choose to talk about something else' (Bloomfield, 1946: LBA 493).

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