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Simpler Syntax


The overall questions addressed by this book are: What is the role of syntax in the grammar vis-à-vis semantics, and what are the consequences for syntactic structure? In the late 1960s, when we were graduate students at MIT together, these questions were being hotly debated in the Linguistic Wars between Generative Semantics and Interpretive Semantics. Both of us wrote our dissertations on aspects of these questions, naturally taking the Interpretive side, as befit our position as Chomsky's students. At the time, it looked to us as though the Interpretive position was leading generative grammar toward a leaner syntax with less complex derivations, and that a great deal of the work of predicting grammatical distribution would be pushed into the lexicon, into semantics, and into what were then called projection rules and are now called correspondence rules or interface rules, i.e. the rules that mediate between syntax and meaning. Somehow this didn't come to pass: instead mainstream generative syntax became steadily more abstract, derivations more complex.

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Tags: syntactic, between, structure, Simpler, Syntax