From: Iver Larsen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon Feb 05 2001 - 02:38:45 EST
Dan commented to something I said:
> I fail to see what whether or not one "needs" a rule has anything to do
> with the validity of a rule. Rules are determined from usage, not need.
> I don't believe that any arguments from _English_ can have any bearing on
> _Greek_ syntax. There were posts on this last October/November which you
> can see in the archives. Can you provide any grammarian who makes his
> primary arguments with respect to Greek syntax by appealing to English?
Since there are probably other people on the list who are equally unfamiliar
with the science of modern linguistics, a small explanation seems to be needed.
In Descriptive Linguistics we are concerned with finding out how language works.
There are many language universals, especially within semantics and pragmatics,
but also some in grammar and phonology. We find many similarities between
RELATED languages, like Greek and English that both belong to the same language
family - quite different from Hebrew which is in a different language family.
We seek to collect as many data as possible of a particular kind, including data
from related languages where it is appropriate. Once the data is collected, we
would try to make a general "rule" or description that can account for these
data. The simpler the description and the more data it is able to explain the
more adequate and powerful is the description and the more likely it is to
accurately catch and account for how this language operates and how speakers of
the language actually look at and use the language. A rule like Smart's that
purports to explain in an extremely complex way a very limited set of data and
in a way that is peculiar to Greek and does not hold for even related languages
flies in the face of the most basic tenets of modern linguistics. That is why
such rules are out of touch with the reality of linguistic science.
When I sometimes use English examples to explain a general point, they are used
for illustrative purposes, not as primary arguments. We are not in a court of
law "proving" things. We are trying to understand how language works.
I accept that misunderstandings come easily when we approach issues from vastly
different vantage points, and e-mail communication is often liable to
misunderstanding because we *try* to be brief and we are writing in a vacuum,
not knowing the background knowledge of those who might read the message.
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