The Autonomy of Syntax
David Adger
April 2017

Chomsky’s 1957 Syntactic Structures is, more or less throughout, an argument for the existence of syntax as both necessary for a full account of language, and as independent of other aspects of language such as statistics and semantics. In this paper I show that these arguments are still as forceful as ever, despite 60 years of developments in stochastic neural net style research and work developing cognitive semantics. I also address the issue of whether work in generative syntax itself, that suggests that the content of functional categories are co-opted from other systems of thought, threatens the autonomy thesis, and argue that it does not, providing an account of how functional categories are ordered (Extended Projection) that relies on the idea of maximizing the computational simplicity of the syntax-semantics interface. Rather than threatening the autonomy of syntax, grammar focussed investigations of questions of meaning have strengthened and clarified the issue, as well as opening up new research questions, showing just how fertile the core set of ideas, laid down in Syntactic Structures 60 years ago, remain.
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Reference: lingbuzz/003442
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: cognitive semantics, stochastic effects, neural nets, functional categories, semantics, syntax
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