Generative Linguistics: A Historical Perspective

Generative Linguistics: A Historical Perspective

Generative Linguistics: A Historical Perspective

Generative Linguistics: A Historical Perspective

Synopsis

Here together for the first time are all of Frederick J. Newmeyer's writings on the origins and development of generative grammar. Spanning a period of fifteen years the essays address the nature of the 'Chomskian Revolution', the deep structure debates of the 1970s and the attempts to apply generative theory to second language acquisition.Written by one of America's most prominent linguists, these articles, many of which have never been published before, provide a challenging reappraisal of the 'Chomskian Revolution' - the implications of which are still being debated some three decades on.

Excerpt

This collection assembles all of my papers on the origins and development of generative grammar, as well as a few sections of my book Linguistic Theory in America (LTA). Several of the papers have never appeared in print before or were published in such obscure locations that this is the first realistic opportunity for interested linguists and historiographers of linguistics to look at them. The essays in this volume were written over a fifteen-year period, from the first edition of LTA, which appeared in 1980, to the review of Ideology and Linguistic Theory: Noam Chomsky and the Deep Structure Debates by Geoffrey Huck and John Goldsmith, which I prepared expressly for this volume.

I considered two possible organizing schemes for the chapters: chronological or thematic, and opted for the latter. My thinking has developed in various ways, of course, since 1980, but as far as the major issues treated here are concerned—the nature of the Chomskyan revolution, the fights between generative semanticists and interpretivists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the recent convergences within generative syntax—I have felt no particular need to re-evaluate profoundly my earlier positions. Hence a thematic organization seems to make the most sense.

The origins and development of generative grammar are now a hot topic, as the amount of recent work devoted to it testifies (Harris 1993a, b; Huck and Goldsmith 1995; R. Lakoff 1989). But when I started to address this question in the late 1970s, I can’t say that I received much encouragement, either from the community of historiographers of linguistics or from the community of generative grammarians. The former tended to believe (and, by and large, still do believe) that my training in, and commitment to, the basic foundational principles of generative grammar would distort my perception and thus my analysis of developments in the field. I’ve never known what to make of such criticism. Would analogous suspicions be forthcoming in any scientific field but linguistics? Would a study of the birth and the early development of relativity theory, for example, be suspect if written by a physicist or historian of physics who

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