Scientific modelling in generative grammar and the dynamic turn in syntax

Linguistics and Philosophy 39 (5):357-394 (2016)
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In this paper, I address the issue of scientific modelling in contemporary linguistics, focusing on the generative tradition. In so doing, I identify two common varieties of linguistic idealisation, which I call determination and isolation respectively. I argue that these distinct types of idealisation can both be described within the remit of Weisberg’s :639–659, 2007) minimalist idealisation strategy in the sciences. Following a line set by Blutner :27–35, 2011), I propose this minimalist idealisation analysis for a broad construal of the generative linguistic programme and thus cite examples from a wide range of linguistic frameworks including early generative syntax, Minimalism, the parallel architecture and optimality theory. Lastly, I claim that from a modelling perspective, the dynamic turn in syntax can be explained as a continuation, as opposed to a marked shift, of the generative modelling paradigm. Seen in this light, my proposal is an even broader construal of the generative tradition, along scientific modelling lines. Thus, I offer a lens through which to appreciate the scientific contribution of generative grammar, amid an increased resistance to some of its core theoretical posits, in terms of a brand of structural realism in the philosophy of science and specifically scientific modelling.



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Ryan Mark Nefdt
University of Cape Town

Citations of this work

The ontology of words: a structural approach.Ryan M. Nefdt - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (8):877-911.
Chomsky in the playground: Idealization in generative linguistics.Giulia Terzian - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87 (C):1-12.

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