Systematicity and Natural Language Syntax

Croatian Journal of Philosophy 7 (3):375-402 (2007)
A lengthy debate in the philosophy of the cognitive sciences has turned on whether the phenomenon known as ‘systematicity’ of language and thought shows that connectionist explanatory aspirations are misguided. We investigate the issue of just which phenomenon ‘systematicity’ is supposed to be. The much-rehearsed examples always suggest that being systematic has something to do with ways in which some parts of expressions in natural languages (and, more conjecturally, some parts of thoughts) can be substituted for others without altering well-formedness. We show that under one construal this yields a grossly weak claim that is not just compatible with a narrow version of associationist psychology but essentially coincides with a formalization of its descriptive power. Under another construal we get a claim (apparently unintended) that requires natural languages to fall within the context-free class, a claim that most linguists regard as too strong. Looking more closely at this proposed reconstruction of systematicity leads us to endorse, with further illustrations, the suggestion of Johnson (2004) that systematicity as a matter of substitutability of co-categorial constituents for one another does not appearto hold of natural languages at all. The appeal of the ill-delineated notion of systematicity may lie in the fact that within certain subclasses of lexical items mutual intersubstitutability does seem to hold, and theexplanation for that lies in a limitation on human memory: we simply cannot learn separate privileges of syntactic distribution for all of the huge number of words and phrases that we know
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI croatjphil2007734
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 16,667
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Wayne A. Davis (2005). On Begging the Systematicity Question. Journal of Philosophical Research 30:399-404.
Andrew Chignell (2006). Beauty as a Symbol of Natural Systematicity. British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (4):406-415.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

13 ( #194,523 of 1,726,249 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

10 ( #66,646 of 1,726,249 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.