Context-linked grammar

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Language is context free in the sense that it builds well-formed structures like "ideas sleep" and "ghosts live" (NP + VP) without regard to meaning and specific contexts (Chomslcy, 1957). However, it is also context sensitive in the sense that it makes use of linguistic objects such as personal pronouns and other indexical expressions that cannot have any reference unless they are embedded in some specific context. This (apparent) context-free/context-sensitive paradox is the focus of this essay. It pursues the idea that phases in the sense of Chomsky (2001) and related work - the minimal computational domains of language - are equipped with silent linking edge features that enable syntax to compute elements of a phase in relation to other phases, thereby also enabling narrow syntax to link to context and build the structures of broad syntax. Evidence for the edge linkers comes from overt phase internal effects, including person and tense marking, person shift of pronouns (indexical shift), the syntax of inclusiveness, and gender agreement across clause (phase) boundaries. Scrutiny of these phenomena suggests that nominal reference is exhaustively syntactic. Syntax therefore communicates with context, but it does so indirectly, via silent edge linkers. The inherent silence of these linkers, in turn, is the reason why the context-syntax relation has been such an opaque problem in linguistics and philosophy. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Sidor (från-till)175-188
TidskriftLanguage Sciences
StatusPublished - 2014

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