principles and parameters (linguistics)


  • [2][further explanation needed] Framework The central idea of principles and parameters is that a person’s syntactic knowledge can be modelled with two formal mechanisms:
    • A finite set of fundamental principles that are common to all languages; e.g., that a sentence must always have a subject, even if it is not overtly pronounced.

  • [15][16][17][18] These critics argue that P&P and discourse analysis differ in the same way that chemistry and cookery differ: one is the study of fundamental interactions
    at a micro-scale in a deterministic model that attempts to be scientific in the broad sense, the other is a more macro-scale, non-deterministic, non-scientific model focussing on use of chemicals in everyday situations in the real world.

  • The P&P approach is an attempt to provide a precise and testable characterization of this innate endowment which consists of universal “Principles” and language-specific,
    binary “Parameters” that can be set in various ways.

  • [3] In particular, given finite and possibly incomplete input, how do children in different linguistic environments rapidly arrive at an accurate and complete grammar that
    seems to exhibit universal and non-obvious similarities?

  • [9] In CA, the form and meaning of an utterance is a product of situated activity- which is to say meaning is highly contextual (within a social, interactive context) and
    contingent upon how participants respond to each other regardless of grammatical completeness of an utterance.

  • As such, any attempt to explain the syntax of a particular language using a principle or parameter is cross-examined with the evidence available in other languages.

  • [21][22][23] Language evolution theorist, Terrence Deacon notes that it is problematic to consider language structure as innate – that is, as having been subject to the forces
    of natural selection, because languages change much too quickly for natural selection to act upon them.

  • Similarly, other discourse and corpus linguistic analyses have found recursion and other forms of grammatical complexity to be rather rare in spoken discourse (especially
    in preliterate societies) but common in written discourse suggesting that much of grammatical complexity may in fact be a product of literacy training.

  • There is a tendency for inter-paradigm critiques to focus on a number of assumptions that are commonly associated with P&P, but which actually are common to Chomskyan generative
    linguistics as a whole.

  • bottom-up Merge and requirement that no derivation be counter-cyclic derives Relativized Minimality effects) or (c) programmatically suggests that they be either derived from
    more basic principles or eliminated subject to future research (e.g.

  • Holmberg and Platzak’s comprehensive analysis of parametric variation in Scandinavian languages), or that the theory is not descriptively adequate, but rather that the accomplishments
    of this line of thinking have been less than anticipated in terms of explanatory adequacy.

  • As such, principles and parameters do not need to be learned by exposure to language.

  • Particularly, a systematic, predictive system of parameters, their properties and interactions, along the lines of the periodic table in chemistry, has yet to be developed.

  • • A finite set of parameters that determine syntactic variability amongst languages; e.g., a binary parameter that determines whether or not the subject of a sentence must
    be overtly pronounced (this example is sometimes referred to as the pro-drop parameter).

  • Within this framework, the goal of linguistics is to identify all of the principles and parameters that are universal to human language (called universal grammar).

  • [1] Principles and parameters as a grammar framework is also known as government and binding theory.

  • For example, while formal linguistics takes the sentence to be the canonical unit of analysis, conversation analysis (CA) takes the turn at talk as canonical.

  • Whether a language is head-initial or head-final is regarded as a parameter which is either on or off for particular languages (i.e.

  • • Theory internal critique • The lack of consensus on a set of parameters • Inter-paradigm critiques not specific to P&P Perhaps the most influential criticisms of P&P have
    been theory internal.

  • Rather, exposure to language merely triggers the parameters to adopt the correct setting.


Works Cited

[‘o Newmeyer, F.J. (2004). Against a parameter-setting approach to language variation. Linguistic Variation Yearbook 4:181-234.
o ^ Chomsky, Noam (2014). The minimalist program (20th anniversary ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-262-32728-2.
OCLC 899496765.
o ^ David Adger. (2003) Core Syntax. Oxford University Press. p.11.
o ^ ibid., p.16
o ^ Chomsky, Noam. (1995). The Minimalist Program. MIT Press, Cambridge MA
o ^ Holmberg, Anders (2000). Natural Language and Linguistic Theory
18: 837–842
o ^ Lappin, Shalom. Levine, Robert. Johnson, David. (2000). Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 18: 665–671.
o ^ Haspelmath, Martin. (2008). Parametric versus functional explanations of syntactic universals. Pp75–107 in The limits
of syntactic variation. Biberauer, Theresa (Ed.) John Benjamins, Amsterdam.
o ^ Sacks, H., E. Schegloff, G. Jefferson (1974). “A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-taking for Conversation.” Language 50(4): 696-735.
o ^ Chafe, W.
L. (1985). Linguistic differences produced by differences between speaking and writing. Literacy, language, and learning: The nature and consequences of reading and writing. D. R. Olson, N. Torrence and A. Hildyard. Cambridge, Cambridge University
o ^ Croft, W. (2000). Explaining Language Change. New York, Longman.
o ^ Kalmar, I. (1985). Are There Really No Primitive Languages? Literacy, Language, and Learning. D. R. Olson, N. Torrence and A. Hildyard, Cambridge U Press.
o ^ Thompson,
S. A. and P. J. Hopper (2001). Transitivity, Clause Structure, and Argument Structure: Evidence from Conversation. Frequency and the Emergence of Linguistics Structure. J. L. Bybee and P. J. Hopper. Amsterdam, Benjamins.
o ^ Tomasello, M. (2004).
“What kind of evidence could refute the UG hypothesis? Commentary on Wunderlich.” Studies in Language 28(3)
o ^ Goodwin, C. (1979). The Interactive Construction of a Sentence in Natural Conversation. Everyday Language:Studies in Ethnomethodology.
G. Psathas. New York, Irvington Publishers: 97-121
o ^ Goodwin, C. (2003b). The Semiotic Body in its Environment. Discourses of the Body. J. Coupland and R. Gwyn. Oxford, Oxford University Press
o ^ Heritage, J. (1987). Ethnomethodology. Social
Theory Today. A. Giddens and J. Turner. Cambridge, Polity Press.
o ^ Duranti, A., Ed. (2001). Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader, Blackwell Publishing.
o ^ Evans, N and Levinson, Stephen. (2009). “The Myth of language universals: language diversity
and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 32. pp429–492.
o ^ Larry Trask reviews The Atoms of Language: The Mind’s Hidden Rules of Grammar by Mark C. Baker
o ^ Hopper, P. (1987). “Emergent Grammar.” Berkeley Linguistics
Society 13: 139-57.
o ^ Hopper, P. and E. Traugott (2003). Grammaticalization, Cambridge U Press.
o ^ Heine, B. and T. Kuteva (2007). The Genesis of Grammar: A Reconstruction, Oxford U Press.
• Baker, M. (2001). The Atoms of Language: The Mind’s
Hidden Rules of Grammar. Basic Bks.
• Chomsky, N. (1981). Lectures on Government and Binding. Mouton de Gruyter.
• Chomsky, N. and Lasnik, H. (1993) Principles and Parameters Theory, in Syntax: An International Handbook of Contemporary Research,
Berlin: de Gruyter.
• Chomsky, N. (1995) The Minimalist Program (Current Studies in Linguistics). MIT Press.
• Lightfoot, D. (1982). The Language Lottery: Towards a Biology of Grammars. MIT Press.
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