Article published in:The Limits of Syntactic Variation
Edited by Theresa Biberauer
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 132] 2008
► pp. 75–107
Parametric versus functional explanations of syntactic universals
This paper compares the generative principles and parameters approach to explaining syntactic universals to the functional-typological approach and also discusses the intermediate approach of Optimality Theory. It identifies some fundamental differences between generative parametric explanations and functional explanations. Most importantly, generative explanations assume that cross-linguistic generalizations are due to the innate Universal Grammar, whereas functional explanations assume that language structure can be influenced by regularities of language use through language change. Despite these differences, both approaches to cross-linguistic similarities and differences seem to be guided by a similar vision: that the superficial structural diversity of languages can be reduced to a few basic patterns once one digs below the surface (macroparameters or holistic types). Unfortunately, the evidence for such reductionist constructs has never been very good, so more recently both generativists and functionalists have shifted their interests away from these ambitious goals. However, I argue that there is one type of cross-linguistic generalization for which there is very good empirical evidence: intra-domain universals relating to prominence scales, most of which are straightforwardly explained functionally in terms of processing difficulty.
Published online: 17 September 2008
Cited by other publications
No author info given
Boeckx, Cedric, Evelina Leivada & Johan J. Bolhuis
Goldberg, Adele & Laura Suttle
GOLDBERG, ADELE E.
Goldberg, Adele E.
Grossman, Eitan & Stéphane Polis
Hahn, Michael, Dan Jurafsky & Richard Futrell
Morales-Front, Alfonso & Cristina Sanz
Park, Jeong Joon, Ronnel Boettcher, Andrew Zhao, Alex Mun, Kevin Yuh, Vibhor Kumar & Matilde Marcolli
Port, Alexander, Iulia Gheorghita, Daniel Guth, John M. Clark, Crystal Liang, Shival Dasu & Matilde Marcolli
Rothman, Jason, Fatih Bayram, Tanja Kupisch, Terje Lohndal & Marit Westergaard
Sessarego, Sandro & Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach
Tachihara, Karina & Adele E. Goldberg
This list is based on CrossRef data as of 23 december 2020. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.