[b-hebrew] knowledge of language versus language use (wasPronoun)nky in Judg 6:8)

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at email.com
Mon Oct 11 15:10:09 EDT 2004

Thanx, Robert:

I think I understand what Chomsky was up to, thanks to your response.

As I understand you, linguistic minimalism says:

Idea to be expressed + language structure = language use.

As a person who has studied a few languages, I can see that when I want to express an idea. I first get the idea, then choose the language to express it in (usually the language I am speaking at that time), then code it in the structure of that language along with the stylistic varient I may prefer. The result are the sounds that come from my mouth. For speakers in our native tongues, that coding happens so quickly that we don't even recognize that there are two steps involved.

For example, in English we almost always place the verb after the subject, also in dependent clauses. In speaking to a great woman in English, the sentence may come out as, "You are beautiful because you are great.", the same in Chinese, while German puts the verb of the dependent clause at the end thereof, "Du bist schön, denn du großmütig bist." or if I were to code it in Japanese, the sentence probably would read like (using English words) "You, that great, beautiful are." and in Hebrew one varient YPH )T KY )$T XYL )T. ( (L )$R Exodus 32:25 or (QB )$R Genesis 22:18, 26:5 can also mean because)

What you ahve done is to find the structural coding for )$R so we can understand how it is being used.

Do I understand you right?

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: Robert Holmstedt <rdholmst at uwm.edu>

> Dave,
> Let me try to defend later Chomsky a bit.  (This addresses a few of your
> comments in various emails).
> And finally, with regard to )$R and the issue of resumption, which you
> bring up in the empty category discussion, I also treated this in my
> dissertation, and found what would probably surprise most
> Hebraists--resumption that isn't obligatory (e.g., a pronominal suffix on
> a noun) isn't in the majority.  Indeed, I concluded that most cases of
> resumption were a last resort strategy, used to "save" the clause from
> "crashing" (somewhat like being ungrammatical, but technically different).
>  So, BH relatives actually have far more empty position that you might
> think.
> So, Chomsky's response was to strip it all down.  Given that phonological
> theory had done fairly well with "features" and that selectional critieria
> also suggested that lexical items encode features, it was a fairly nature
> move to make feature analysis the central component of the change, at
> least in terms of the mechanics.  The result was a greatly reduced
> computational system---Deep Structure (as a theoretical entity) was gone,
> and so were all transformations (as well as the theoretical idea of
> "ungrammatical" sentences).  In its place was a simple processing core. 
> When a sentence is generated, the appropriate lexical items are inserted
> into the computational system. 
> Now, only the early generative critics of minimalism argued that it was
> simply a "moving of the problems around" (you mentioned Jackendoff as one;
> Newmeyer is another).  What has happened in the decade since it started is
> that the model has been able to explain more with less effort.   In
> minimalism, since again, Chomsky's goals are really to understand the mind
> by virtue of language (perhaps the mind's purest external product), there
> are far fewer principles that then act upon the items inserted from the
> lexicon.  It is in the lexicon, then, that much of the burden has shifted.
>  This has great benefit, though: for example, in language acquisition, a
> child need not acquire or set nearly as many parameters, since the
> principles are fewer, but instead acquires the proper features for each of
> the learned lexical items.  These language specific features are then
> processed differently by the principles like move, merge, greed, etc. 
> Well, as I look back, this is a spotty defense--again, its hard to do this
> over email.  Heck, it's hard to cover it all in a semester...
> Best,
> Robert
> =====
> Dr. Robert D. Holmstedt
> Hebrew Studies Program
> Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics
> University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
> www.uwm.edu/~rdholmst
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