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Formalism vs. Functionalism

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Brendan C

on 12 March 2013

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Transcript of Formalism vs. Functionalism

Exemplar theory allows for both uses to exist simultaneously in ambiguous cases, and for the newcomer to grow in probability as frequency increases. 'to be going' was the most common verb, and its use was reanalysed as a future marker. Formalism vs. Functionalism
Language as a formal system
Linguistic sign
However, Saussure 1959 didn’t think that langue had to be a “well-defined object” The beginnings of Structuralism

The sign is meaningful through its interactions with other signs within a language
Syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations
Analysis of language (langue) synchronically, not diachronically.
Structuralism too simplistic? What to do with "John is eager to please" and "John is easy to please"? (Searle 1972)
The Prague School
Goal: explanation rather than taxonomy
Postulated abstract features, such as the phoneme
Biuniqueness and beginnings of feature theory Some confusing terminology Rationalism and Empiricism

Langue/parole and Competence/performance

Functionalism and Formalism

And what is Structuralism again? Chomsky
'Syntactic Structures' 1957
Generative grammar
Now, we can call Chomsky
a Structuralist Let's look at two functionalist papers... BYBEE 2006 Frequency effects Reducing effect Conserving effect Autonomy weep → weeped or wept
keep → ONLY kept 'dislocate'
'mislocate' Cognitive grammar “Cognitive representations of grammar are organized into constructions which are partially schematic, conventionalized sequences of morphemes with a direct semantic representation.” NOONAN 1999 Exemplar theory “linguistics needs a model that allows particular instances of use to affect representation.” /t/ /d/ [t] [d] Phonology Big weakness of formalism is that it doesn't account for diachronic language change, like grammaticisation... The prefab 'going to' in English has two uses:
Literal - 'I am going to the beach'
Auxilliary - 'I am going to tell you a juicy secret' "Don Alphonso,With other gentlemen of good esteem,
Are journeying to salute the emperor" "Sir, the Germans desire to have three of your horses: the duke himself will be to-morrow at court, and they are going to meet him." Also, the reducing effect applies, creating only for the future. *I'm the beach. 'Are you going to eat at the market?' 1600s Today 'going to' 'going to' LITERAL
MEANING Formalism
Psychological reality of syntax manifests as Phrase Structure Rules
Influence on Phonology, First Language Acquisition...
"Grammar is autonomous and independent of meaning" (Chomsky 1957)
Linguistic theory to be comparable to theories in the natural sciences Labov
Incorporating facts about the
community in grammatical rules
e.g. Martha's Vineyard Functionalism
Response to formalism
Importance of usage
Van Valin, Bybee, Noonan...
Sentences generated by grammars
don't look like actual utterances Now Final comments

Tendencies rather than definite features
Scale rather than a dichotomy
Are the two really that incompatible?
We're still in in the very early stages of neuroscience, psycholinguistics etc.
It has been looooong debate Shots at each other First Language Acquisition Typology and Universals Formalism
Universal Grammar
Language Acquisition Device Functionalism
Language via social interaction
Theory of Mind Formalism
like human language
Absolute and implicational
universals Functionalism
Infinite and unpredictable
variation "grammar is the cognitive organization of experience with language. Usage feeds into the creation of grammar just as much as grammar determines the shape of usage."
(Bybee 2009) "historical facts only show a gradual shift, typically with variants occuring simultaneously..." (Noonan 1999) e.g.
Does Alice like the soprano?
No, the tenor.
*No, tenor. AUXILIARY
MEANING Who did you destroy a book about? (questionable)

Which prime minister did they burn an effigy of? A person “does not learn a language, they learn how to speak.” (Lavie 2007)
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