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2005 LSA Institute Linguistic Society of America









LSA.127 | Syntactic Categories: Formal and Functionalist Approaches

Mark Baker and William Croft
TR 4:50-6:30
location: 32-123

The realization that words belong to different syntactic categories, such as noun, verb, and adjective, has been known since ancient times, and is part of the agreed on background of all linguistic theories. This common heritage from traditional grammar notwithstanding, there is currently much diversity of thought about the exact nature of these categories, how they can best be characterized or defined, and to what extent they are universal to all natural human languages. This class will be team-taught by proponents of two quite different approaches to these questions, the functionalist-typological approach of Croft (1991, 2001), and the formal-generative approach of Baker (2003). These two approaches have interesting commonalities, including the appeals they make to reference, predication, and modification, and their desire to develop an approach that is valid for a very broad range of human languages. Nevertheless, they pursue very different methodologies and develop their ideas in characteristically different ways. By juxtaposing our theories in this class, and allowing a free ranging dialog on the topic, we hope to use the syntactic categories as a case study that illustrates in a constructive way the differing goals, methods, background assumptions, styles of reasoning, and results of the formal and functionalist approaches to linguistics. Along the way we hope to clarify where the two schools are expressing similar insights in different terms, where their interests in a topic are different but potentially complementary, and where there are fundamental disagreements. (Time permitting, we will broaden the discussion to related topics of general interest, such as grammatical functions and/or agreement.)

Prerequisites: One course in syntax or typology. Experience with non-Indo-European languages is an asset

Required Textbook
Title: Radical Construction Grammer
Author: William Croft
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 0198299540