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Re: X-Bar Theory

From:julien eychenne <eychenne.j@...>
Date:Monday, July 29, 2002, 8:03
>>2) Human beings can produce an infinite number of >>sentences with a finite number of elements. > >Then you end up with sentences of infinite length, and these would be >endlessly repetitive in the end. Think of reading a dictionary, except >without order, definitions, or end. No human *could* make an infinitely >long sentence.
As I said, Generative Grammar distinguishes *competence*, what people can *theoretically* do, and *performance*, what they can *actually* do. So you may wonder how people can produce infinite sentences if they have to day one day (I already asked the question :D)? The answer is that theoretically, a sentence can be indefinitively expanded, with embbeded clauses for instance. Your example with the dictionnary is problematic in that way that you suppose you can read a word only once. But there is on matter in using words several times ;). So think of the longest sentence you can do : you'll alway be able to *theoretically* add a modifier (adjective, relative clause, adverb...) somewhere.
>>1 ) language has a an abstract structure which has the rigor of >mathematics. > >Hmm... not sure exactly what you mean by that. Is it a direct Chomsky >quote? If so, I'll have to take it up with him directly.
No, from my memory :). Anyway, this is what I was taught during several years, and which seems to be true when you know how a D-structure to S-structure transformation with alpha-movements can look like ;).
>Do you mean that >the structure of language is as complex as mathematics?
I mean that *Chomsky* says that language has the formal rigor of mathematics. I don't know if it is as, less or much complex than mathematics (but the brain machine is not so simple, isn't it). But it can be described with an unambiguous formalism as rigourous as mathematical and logical formalism. Think of pre and post-chaomskyan grammars to see how important was Chomsky's contribution with formal descriptions of language. Julien