2010 | 127 | 211-226
Article title

On the form-function dichotomy in linguistic theory

Title variants
Languages of publication
This paper focuses on an important divide in theoretical linguistics between two broad perspectives on the structural properties of human languages, generative and functionalist. In the former, linguistic structure is explained in terms of discrete categories and highly abstract principles, which may be language-independent or language-specific and purely formal or functional in nature. In the latter, explanation for why languages have the structure that they do is found ‘outside’ language, in the general principles of human cognition and the communicative functions of language. The aim of this paper is to highlight the need for abstractness, explicitness, simplicity and theoretical economy in linguistic description and explanation. The question is not whether principles of grammar are formal or functional. The question is whether the principles that are postulated to explain linguistic structure express true generalizations.
Physical description
  • Kraków
  • Baker M. 2001.The atoms of language.New York.
  • Boeckx C. 2006.Linguistic minimalism.Oxford.
  • Carruthers P. 2002. The cognitive functions of language. -Behavioral and Brain Sciences25: 657-726.
  • Chomsky N. 1995.The minimalist program.Cambridge.
  • Chomsky N. 2005. Three factors in language design. -Linguistic Inquiry36: 1-22.
  • Chomsky N. 2007. Of minds and language. -Biolinguistics1: 19-27.
  • Corbett G. 1991.Gender.Cambridge.
  • Croft W. 1995. Autonomy and functionalist linguistics. -Language71: 490-532.
  • Culicover P., Jackendoff R. 2005.Simpler syntax.Oxford.
  • DeLancey S. 2001. On functionalism. [LSA Summer Institute, Santa Barbara, Lecture Notes (Lecture 1)
  • Fanselow G. 2006. Pure syntax. - Brandt P., Fuss E. (eds.)Form, structure and grammar.Berlin: 137-158.
  • Fanselow G. 2008. In need of mediation: the relation between syntax and information structure. -Acta Linguistica Hungarica55: 1-17.
  • Hopper P., Thompson S. 1984. The discourse basis for lexical categories in universal grammar. -Language60: 703-752.
  • Hurford J. 2002. The roles of expression and representation in language evolution. - Wray A. (ed.)The transition to language.Oxford: 311-334.
  • Jackendoff R. 2003. Précis of ‘Foundations of language: brain, meaning, grammar, evolution’. -Behavioral and Brain Sciences26: 651-707.
  • Lakoff G. 1987.Women, fire, and dangerous things.Chicago.
  • Neeleman A., Weerman F. 1997. L1 and L2 word order acquisition. -Language Acquisition6: 125-170.
  • Newmeyer F. 2001. Where is functional explanation? -Chicago Linguistic Society37: 583-599.
  • Newmeyer F. 2003. Grammar is grammar and usage is usage. -Language79: 682-707.
  • Plaster K., Polinsky M. 2007. Women are not dangerous things: gender and categorization. -Harvard Working Papers in Linguistics12: 1-44.
  • Smith N. 2006. History of linguistics: discipline of linguistics. - Brown K. (ed.)The encyclopedia of language and linguistics.Amsterdam: 341-355.
  • Wierzbicka A. 1985. ‘Oats’ and ‘wheat’: the fallacy of arbitrariness. - Haiman J. (ed.)Iconicity in syntax.Amsterdam: 311-432.
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.