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Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Construction Grammar and Relevance Theory
« Last post by Daniel on December 01, 2018, 09:56:16 AM »
Can you clarify what you mean by not a theory per se with an example of a specific theory?
Good question! --
If you could provide an example of something accepted as a full fledged theory that would be helpful.
Unfortunately most so-called "theories" in Linguistics (it's a new science, after all) really don't have the rigor or specificity of something like the Theories we know from physics (e.g., the Special Theory of Relativity). Partly it's because they're not fully worked out, but mostly because they're still in flux, from on linguist to another, and even from one paper to another by the same author. If you look at Chomsky's work over the past ~70 years, he has substantially changed directions multiple times. Still we talk about "Generative Grammar" as if it is one thing-- and it is, in that it's an approach, but it's not a specific theory. Perhaps one of the most notorious non-theories is "Universal Grammar", which is Chomsky's proposal that all languages share some inherent, genetically-based grammatical core, but you really can't look up with UG is, because it has simply never been proposed in full, and it varies almost every time it's discussed, so you can't call it a theory (but many people still do). Instead, you can find many ideas about what might be part of UG, and many arguments that UG must exist (just by definition-- it's whatever is shared by all languages, but also that there must be some common core to human languages for children to learn to speak similarly). But no real "UG theory" has been proposed, because that would require it to be fully worked out. And most serious scientific theories also have reached some level of consensus-- at this point linguists agree about almost nothing.

One thing that is close to a theory is any long book (whether a textbook, or a more technical book) proposing a specific approach. You could call that the Author-2018 Theory, or whatever. But it will probably change next year, so it's not really a Theory in the common scientific sense.

What we have instead in Linguistics is many ideas that are proposed as good parts of (eventual) theories. For example, Construction Grammar centers around the idea that a good grammatical theory of human language has Constructions (in a technical sense).

Actually, one of the more worked out theories for a specific domain in Linguistics probably is Relativity Theory. It's still not quite to the level of various Theories in other fields, but it's been worked out to a relatively explicit level and is not as controversial as many other "theories" out there.

One way to tell a "Theory" from a non-theory is that a "Theory" can be falsified by showing it is incompatible with data. So if you find that Special Relativity does not apply to certain stars in the galaxy, then that model of physics is wrong. Theories are therefore very fragile (and probably all wrong, at a sufficient level of detail). But at the same time, a good theory that stands the test of time is strong, in another sense. What makes most "Linguistics theories" different from this is that they're falsified all the time, sometimes in the same paper where they are proposed. They're really just partial theories, or "flexible theories" that don't really hold themselves accountable to falsifiability in a strict sense. They're ideas about how to get to a theory eventually, but when some part of the proposal is falsified, then the theory is just adjusted a bit to make it fit better, and so science continues, toward Theories, but not there yet. You could, if you wish, consider every single proposal to be a Theory, but that's pointless because in 99% of the cases they're transparently falsifiable by looking at more data-- and they're not even really "Theories" to begin with because they're not complete (I don't mean as "a theory of everything" but even just within whatever domain they're trying to cover).

So instead in Linguistics we have many ideas (some of them called "theories", but also by other names), and these are good suggestions for components of theories. Chomsky has spent the past 70 years or so searching for a Theory of grammar but hasn't really gotten there yet. His latest enterprise (for the past 20+ years) is the Minimalist Program, which very explicitly is not a theory at all, but an approach to designing a theory: specifically, he suggests the best theory is the simplest one. So Minimalists seek to eliminate unnecessary components from earlier proposals, in order to figure out which components are essential.

As for Construction Grammar, it's far from a Theory just because there really isn't "one way" to do Construction Grammar-- far from it: there are many shared ideas across different works, but basically everyone working in it has slightly different ideas, and therefore is imagining a slightly different theory.

At the same time, all of this is still theoretical because it is being proposed in the context of developing a theory. But there's so much variation and shifting, we're just not there yet.
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Construction Grammar and Relevance Theory
« Last post by Matt Longhorn on December 01, 2018, 01:03:57 PM »
Thanks Daniel. I came across it when reading "Semantics and Pragmatics: Drawing a Line" so got a flavour of the vagueness of the distinction between these two disciplines while reading that. It is just nice to be reading in an area that isn't specifically pragmatic in its outlook.
Can you clarify what you mean by not a theory per se with an example of a specific theory? If you could provide an example of something accepted as a full fledged theory that would be helpful.
Unfortunately reading outside of work doesn't leave me much time so I am somewhat myopic in my reading habits. Still splitting time between Koine Greek, learning vocab, reading papers and books on grammar and linguistics applied to the koine era and still try to keep an eye on more general modern stuff. Sounds like a lot, but I tend to focus in depth on one small thing at a time until I burn out and then move to another area and generally just cycle around. As a result I have only looked at relevance theory for the past year and don't really have a wider reading in linguistics than that.
Semantics and Pragmatics / Re: Construction Grammar and Relevance Theory
« Last post by Daniel on December 01, 2018, 12:48:36 PM »
On the one hand, they deal with different domains: pragmatics vs. grammar, so they don't strictly need to be compatible. It's hard to imagine any (reasonable) theory of grammar being completely incompatible with Relevance-theoretic pragmatics.

On the other hand, Construction Grammar, and Cognitive Linguistics in general, does not treat the Semantics/Pragmatics distinction as strictly as other grammatical theories, so that usage and context may either directly or indirectly affect the grammar. In that sense, Relevance may determine which constructions are used and even how they develop. This is not an area I've specifically read much about, but certainly seems like a good one for research, to determine the extent and nuances of the relationship. You might even ask if the constructions found in a language can be substantially explained by Relevance.

At the same time, a challenge is that neither of these is a theory per se in the most specific sense: they are both ideas that can be incorporated into specific theories. It seems extremely likely that "relevance" has some bearing on pragmatic interaction, whether or not formulated in precisely the way current publications say. Constructions are a little bit more controversial (some extreme Generative theories might attempt to deny that they exist entirely, although even then I think they would need to admit that idioms exist, which are the most extreme kind of construction, and then the question just becomes where to draw the line, not whether constructions exist). So these are really just approaches to analysis, and there's a lot of variation out there in specific proposals, with no consensus yet.
Semantics and Pragmatics / Construction Grammar and Relevance Theory
« Last post by Matt Longhorn on December 01, 2018, 04:05:51 AM »
I was hoping someone could give some thoughts on the possibilities and challenges of integrating relevance theory and construction grammar.
I have been reading on relevance theory for about a year now and wanted to move to something else to further my personal reading. Construction grammar has appealed to me for various reasons, but I am only at the start of learning this theory. I just bought the oxford handbook for a comparatively cheap price so am working through that, as well as reading journal articles and
I have stumbled across work by Benoit Leclercq that I will try to get through when I feel up to it, but was hoping others may know resources or have thoughts already that deal with this as well?
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on November 28, 2018, 02:02:51 PM »
There are three questions:
1) Data (you seem to present this reasonably, but there may be other possibilities to consider as well)
2) Methodology (you have yet to address any sort of technical methodology, e.g., along the lines in the table you linked to, using phonetic notation, systematic rules deriving sound changes from one step to the next, etc.*)
3) Interpretation (this is the least certain)

I've really only been commenting on (2), and some about (3). Starting with different data will lead to different hypotheses. Determining which one is better is tricky. The most important thing to look for is consistency, but for some etymologies, especially if they are unique (not following the patterns of other words) then we really can't know much, because there's nothing to compare them to. The possibilities may remain open, without any conclusions. That's just how it works.

So, which approach do you think is more scientific?
One using technical notation, consistent sound change rules, and properly addressing relevant data as well as alternative hypotheses. (That's a lot to ask, but no one said science is easy.) All of your comments here are haphazardly criticizing aspects of the proposal without proposing any alternative in a technical way. That's not going to get us anywhere.

*What is lacking from your "sound changes" in the last post is any sort of systematic pattern. You're just writing out words you imagine from one stage to the next, without any clearly defined methodology. The most important principle of Historical Linguistics is looking for patterns across words, rather than just listing examples you think make sense.

There is literally no point in arguing about any of this without a specific, consistent, technical proposal that shows all of the steps. And honestly I don't know that I have the time to look over a detailed proposal like that, depending on how long it ends up being. That's why I've been talking about methodology this whole time rather than answers, because that's what can be offered here. "What ifs" make all of this too variable to give a clear answer. Post a specific proposal or just accept that "maybe" is a reasonable response.

The off-topic, ad hominem, non-scientific, political, variable arguments in this thread have made me lose track of what we're even talking about. That's not how science works, and I have no interest in continuing with it.
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by AGuyFromBalkanee on November 28, 2018, 01:09:03 PM »
So, what is that approach you suggest? I've included a list of sound changes I propose in my last post.
And I think my approach is even more scientific than the FlatAssembler's one because that names which I take to be previous names for Zagreb are actually attested, the name "Serbinon" is attested on the Ptolemy's map, the name "Soroga" is mentioned in "Rerum Hungaricarum", and the other names similarly so.
FlatAssembler's proposed ancient name for Zagreb, "Dzigurevos" (supposedly meaning "God's hill"), as far as I know, hasn't been attested anywhere. Here is what he wrote exactly:
Quote from: FlatAssembler
The name Zagreb itself probably means "the God's hill", from the Illyrian word Dzis (God), mentioned on the Messapian inscriptions, and a word related to Proto-Slavic *gora and Sanskrit giri. So, the Illyrian name might have been *Dzigurevos, borrowed into Old Croatian via Vulgar Latin.
He also appears to imply the way the name changed can be explained using the table he made (I linked to it in my last post), even though I find it very hard to believe languages actually behave that way. He derives the rules in that table from some words and place names he claims to have gone from Latin to Croatian early, but I am pretty sure that if you tested those rules with more such words, they will fail to correctly predict how the shapes of the words changed more often than not. And I am also pretty sure no linguist specializing in Serbo-Croatian would affirm you the rules in the table are correct.
So, which approach do you think is more scientific?
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on November 28, 2018, 12:06:37 PM »
Even assuming you're correct about everything you say, your points here are also entirely politically motivated, so you're being hypocritical, and off-topic.

But why should we trust him?
I don't "trust" him, or others. That's not how science works.  I'm just talking about methodology and commenting on linguistics. I'm not suggesting anyone's politically-motivated arguments are better than anyone else's. I have, however, suggested some ways to approach these questions linguistically. That's all. Your replies here simply don't have any relevance to that, so there's nothing more to discuss. This forum is not the place to decide the "official" etymology of anything, so there's really nothing at stake here.

People can write whatever they want on the internet. Most of it is wrong (given several competing theories). This forum isn't going to solve any of that, but we can discuss Linguistics here. What matters a lot more than being right or wrong is learning how to be right next time. If you're not here to do that, then why are you here, and what do you want? This back and forth is tiring, and as far as I can tell, pointless for all involved.
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by AGuyFromBalkanee on November 28, 2018, 11:38:23 AM »
Well, yes, FlatAssembler did include tables on his web-page explaining what he supposes to be the sound changes from Indo-European to Illyrian (I believe he also posted that one here), from Classical Latin to the Late Latin dialect he supposes to have been spoken in Croatia and from Old Croatian into Modern Croatian. But why should we trust him? After all, he had quite a lot of time to make those stuff up in order to make his theory apparently coherent, right?
And I suppose it seems apparently coherent... until you know a bit more. For instance, that there was a city in ancient times known as Serbinon (and later as Sorba, Soroba, Sogora, Zbreg and finally as Zagreb), which all the historians I've asked agree was modern-day Zagreb. Doesn't that strongly suggest that Zagreb is a Serbian city that was stolen from Serbia by the Croats? And, as FlatAssembler also notes, there was also a river named Serapia, probably the river now known as Bednja. Yes, you can search for alternative etymologies (you can claim whatever you want about a supposed ancient unattested language), but come on now! Serbia, Serbinon, Serapia... Don't you see the connection here?
But, yeah, you are not from Balkan, so it's not important to you.
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by Daniel on November 28, 2018, 10:44:16 AM »
Yes, off-topic posts will be deleted. Continued ad-hominem or off-topic (including politically motivated) posts will be removed, and your account may be banned. I don't like babysitting, and it's frustrating you're insisting on it. Write maturely and responsibly or leave the forum-- final warning.


from the Illyrian word he reconstructs as *Dzigurevos, supposedly meaning "God's hill". Why is that more credible than saying that the name "Zagreb" comes from the earlier name "Serbinovo"?
Because "credible" doesn't describe general statements like you are making, or many of the general statements flatassembler has made. What is credible is systematically applying standard analyses in linguistics, like the comparative method, and tracing sound changes step by step. If it works out, that's relatively credible. If it doesn't, if there are holes or unknowns in the analysis, that's a good sign it isn't credible.

I don't have the time or interest to attempt to figure out all the nuances of these arguments. But it should be relatively easy to do so if you would like, looking strictly at linguistic analysis, to see what happens.
Outside of the box / Re: Croatian toponyms
« Last post by AGuyFromBalkanee on November 28, 2018, 10:34:15 AM »
Oh, OK, I see my posts get deleted here if I say what I think about the important stuff. Let's try, like FlatAssembler, you know, discuss politics without directly mentioning it.

So, FlatAssembler suggests that the name of the city of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, comes from the Illyrian word he reconstructs as *Dzigurevos, supposedly meaning "God's hill". Why is that more credible than saying that the name "Zagreb" comes from the earlier name "Serbinovo"? Because any competent historian will affirm you Zagreb was previously known as "Serbinovo".
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