The Openness of Natural Languages
It might seem plausible to the nonspecialist that a given NL, NLx permits one to report linguistic performances, both performances of NLx elements and those of NLs distinct from NLx. By “reporting linguistic performances” I refer to nothing more arcane than forming statements like “Amanda just shouted, “Where's my baby?'” It might also seem to a nonspecialist that NLx permits one to do descriptive linguistics, not only the descriptive linguistics of NLx but also that of other distinct NLs. By “doing descriptive linguistics” I mean nothing more exotic than forming sentences like “The German word for 'air force' is 'Luftwaffe. '” But while these nonspecialist assumptions might seem not only plausible but also self-evidently true, modern linguistics in its dominant instantiation, generative grammar, in fact denies both these claims. Of course, it does this only implicitly and most advocates of generative grammar may be unaware that its doctrines taken literally preclude what any nonspecialist would assume possible. Readers who do not easily accept this conclusion will find their skepticism addressed in what follows, for a major goal of this study is to justify in detail the claim that generative grammar has the evidently intolerable implications just mentioned.
Near the beginning of the generative grammar movement in linguistics the following claims were made (all emphases mine: PMP):