On Understanding Grammar

On Understanding Grammar

1st Edition - September 28, 1987

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  • Author: Talmy Givón
  • eBook ISBN: 9781483259932

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On Understanding Grammar covers the interdependencies among the various aspects of linguistics and the human language. This eight-chapter text considers some pertinent topics in linguistics, such as discourse-pragmatics, diachronic syntax, topology, creology, method, and ontology. Chapter 1 describes the notions of fact, theory, and explanation, particularly about how these notions manifest themselves in actual practice. Chapter 2 redefines syntax in terms of communicative function and discourse-pragmatics, and about the relation between the function of grammatical devices and their formal properties. Chapter 3 deals with discourse-pragmatics and how it transcends the narrow bounds of deductive logic, as well as the function and ontology of negation in language, and how those relate to the fundamental information-theoretic principle of figure versus ground. Chapter 4 explores the two major aspects of case systems, namely, the semantic role and pragmatic function, and how the two interact in determining the typological characteristics of grammars. Chapter 5 examines the relation between discourse and syntax based on diachronic, ontogenetic, phylogenetic viewpoints. Chapter 6 tackles the relation between synchronic grammar and diachronic change, while Chapter 7 describes the relationship between human language and its phylogenetic evolution. Chapter 8 is about language and ontology, as well as the relation between cognition and the universe. This book will prove useful to linguistics and language researchers.

Table of Contents

  • Foreword


    1 Methodology on the Crypto-Structuralist Nature of Transformational Grammar

    1.1. Introduction

    1.2. The Ascent of the FormaHsm as Explanation

    1.3. The Gutting of the Data Base: Competence and Grammaticality

    1.4. Conclusion

    2 Grammar and Function Toward a Discourse Definition of Syntax

    2.1. Introduction

    2.2. The Discourse Presuppositions of Syntactic Constructions

    2.3. Discourse Markedness and Distributional Restrictions

    2.4. Discourse Markedness and Syntactic Complexity

    2.6. Language Acquisition

    2.7. Conclusion: Syntax and Communication

    3 Logic versus Language Negation in Language: Pragmatics, Function, Ontology

    3.1. Introduction

    3.2. The Presuppositional Status of Negative Speech Acts

    3.3. Some Consequences of the Marked Status of Negatives

    3.4. The Ontological Basis of Negation

    3.5. Conclusion

    Appendix 1: Test Sheet for an Experiment on the Interpretation of English Modals

    Appendix 2: Total Scores for 100 Subjects of the Results of the Experiment on English Modals

    4 Semantic Case and Pragmatic Function Promotion, Accessibility, and the Typology of Case Marking

    4.1. Introduction

    4.2. The Case-Recoverability Problem

    4.3. Relativization

    4.4. Passivization and Promotion to Direct Object

    4.5. Summary

    5 Syntacticization from Discourse to Syntax: Grammar as a Processing Strategy

    5.1. Introduction

    5.2. The Diachronie Process of Syntacticization

    5.3. An Interim Summary

    5.4. Pidgins and Creoles

    5.5. Child versus Adult Language

    5.6. Informal versus Formal Speech

    6 Language Change where does Crazy Syntax come From: Diachronic Constraints on Synchronic Grammars

    6.1. Introduction

    6.2. Crazy Synchronic Phonology

    6.3. Typological Inconsistencies between Morphology and Syntax

    6.4. Cleft and WH-Question Revisited

    6.5. Pronoun Attraction and Object Relativization

    6.6. Some Puzzles in Swahili Relativization

    6.7. Mixed Typologies in Verb Phrase Syntax

    6.8. Frozen Syntactic Constraints

    6.9. Frozen Lexical Patterns

    6.10. Discussion

    7 Language and Phylogeny the Sov Mystery and the Evolution of Discourse

    7.1. Introduction

    7.2. Arguments for a Neo-Recapitulationist View

    7.3. The SOV Mystery

    7.4. Extrapolation Number 1: The Communicative System of Canines

    7.5. Pongid Communication: Brief Summary

    7.6. Extrapolation Number 2: Early Child Communication

    7.7. Presyntactic Discourse as a Phylogenetic Target

    7.8. A Short Summary of the Evolutionary Scenario

    7.9. Syntacticization as a Phylogenetic Process

    7.10. Vestigial Survival of Early Linguistic Modes

    7.11. Conclusion: The SOV Mystery Revisited

    8 Language and Ontology on Construing a Universe

    8.1. Introduction

    8.2. Space, Time, and Being

    8.4. An Unordered Binary Property: An Aborted Attempt at Individuation

    8.5. The First Ordered Relation: Time

    8.6. An Ontology of Experience in a Universe of Time

    8.7. The Second, Third, and Fourth Dimensions: Space

    8.8. Spatial Perception, Perceptual Judgment, and Calibration

    8.9. The Paradox of Order and Chaos

    8.10. Upper Bounds and Optimality

    8.11. The Ontology of Experience in a Spatiotemporal Universe

    8.12. Some Evolutionary Correlates of the Time-Space Universe

    8.13. Action, Agents, Intent, and Causality

    8.14. Experiential Criteria for Agents

    8.15. The Ontology of Causation and Agency

    8.16. The Ontological Unity of Interpersonal Behavior

    8.17. Closure



Product details

  • No. of pages: 396
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 1987
  • Published: September 28, 1987
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • eBook ISBN: 9781483259932

About the Author

Talmy Givón

About the Editor

Harry A Whitaker

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