[SydPhil] History and Philosophy of Linguistics Reading group

Nick Riemer nick.riemer at sydney.edu.au
Mon Jun 23 10:22:38 AEST 2014

Reminder: History and Philosophy of Linguistics Reading group

Next meeting: Tuesday, June 24, 5-6.30pm, Woolley S361.

Reading: ALAN HUFFMAN, The linguistics of William Diver and the Columbia school

WORD, VOLUME 52, NUMBER 1 (APRIL, 2001): 29-68.

Abstract: The school of linguistics established by William Diver, known
as the Columbia school, is arguably the most radical on today's linguistic scene. Many of the insights that appear as important or interesting ideas in today's functionalist thinking were incorporated by Diver in a coherent, comprehensive theoretical framework even before functionalism emerged as a distinct line of thought. Diver eschewed a-prioristic and purely deductive categorizations and grounded his work on an empirically-motivated distinction between the language-specific and the universal. He offered a penetrating critique of the categories of syntax which showed them to be a flawed basis for analysis of language, and thereby demonstrated a foundational fault in generative grammar. By focusing on naturally occurring discourse data, the Columbia school has been led to a view of grammatical structure as driven by the communicative function of language and by the effect of human behavioral traits such as inference and minimization of effort. This view reveals that a great deal of what had been regarded as "core syntax" or polysemic is in fact monosemic signal-meaning pairing. Columbia-school analyses demonstrate such hypotheses with innovative contextualized and quantitative validation techniques. The same orienting principles yield an explanatory phonology, one that is thoroughly "natural" and grounded in phonetic substance without being merely descriptive. The Columbia-school framework offers an original view of what constitutes explanation in linguistics.

Reading available by signing up at http://hplinguistics.pbworks.com

Enquiries: nick.riemer at sydney.edu.au

All welcome!

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