Taking Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures as a starting point, this paper explores the use of recursive techniques in contemporary linguistic theory. Specifically, it is shown that there were profound ambiguities surrounding the notion of recursion in the 1950s, and that this was partly due to the fact that influential texts such as Syntactic Structures neglected to define what exactly constituted a recursive device. As a result, uncertainties concerning the role of recursion in linguistic theory have prevailed until the present day, and some of the most common misunderstandings that have appeared in recent discussions are examined at some length. This article shows that debates about such topics are frequently undermined by fundamental misunderstandings concerning core terminology, and the full extent of the prevailing haziness is revealed. An attempt is made, for instance, to distinguish between such things as iterative constructional devices and self-similar syntactic embedding, despite the fact that these are usually both unhelpfully classified as examples of recursion. Consequently, this article effectively constitutes a plea for much greater accuracy and clarity when such important issues are addressed from a linguistic perspective
Keywords Syntax  Recursion  Minimalism
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10849-011-9141-1
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,043
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

On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the N Tscheidungsproblem.Alan Turing - 1936 - Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society 42 (1):230-265.

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Resolving the Infinitude Controversy.András Kornai - 2014 - Journal of Logic, Language and Information 23 (4):481-492.
Sobre el anti-realismo de Wittgenstein y su aplicación al programa chomskiano.Sergio Mota - 2014 - Metatheoria – Revista de Filosofía E Historia de la Ciencia 4:35--51.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
73 ( #156,091 of 2,498,553 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
3 ( #211,850 of 2,498,553 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes