Skeptical Linguistic Essays

By Paul M. Postal | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION
This collection of essays is concerned with syntactic questions, with certain general features of grammatical theory related to syntax, here and there with semantic issues, and quite a bit with questions of appropriate standards in pursuing research in the previously mentioned domains. It has almost nothing to say about phonology. The immediately following remarks are to be interpreted against the background of this restricted understanding of what 'linguistic' is here intended to denote.A prospective reader might ask “what is a skeptical linguistic essay?” I would answer that it is one based on a deep and long-standing view that much nonetheless prestigious current linguistics has in fact made very restricted descriptive and explanatory progress and, in some areas where great things have been claimed, no real substantive progress at all. This lack of true progress holds, I maintain, despite the fact that the literature of modern linguistics and its ancestors is replete with boasts of at least grand-sounding accomplishments; see in particular the discussion of (2) of chapter 8.Consider (1) for example:
1. Epstein and Hornstein (1999: xi)

“GB's very success, however, dramatically alters the methodological landscape. It has spawned a consensus that principles-and-parameters accounts may well answer Plato's problem in the domain of language. This general and surely tentative consensus allows the other sorts of measures of success to guide minimalist theory construction and (self-)evaluation. In effect, given a principles-and-parameters setting, simplicity, elegance, parsimony, and naturalness move from background to foreground concerns in the con

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