Language & Theory : The Differential Theory Essay

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In an article in a recent issue of Language (Newmeyer 2003), Frederick Newmeyer argues for a clear separation between what he terms `knowledge of language [i.e. grammar] and use of language [i.e. pragmatics]' (682). In developing his argument, Newmeyer makes frequent reference to linguistic analyses that are corpus-based, that is, centered on information taken from large datasets of actual speech or writing (e.g. transcriptions of conversations, newspaper articles, novels). In Newmeyer's view, grammar is distinct frompragmatics, and because a corpus contains examples of actual language use drawn from a large community of speakers and writers, it can yield only performance data. As a result, N argues, `there is no way that one can draw …show more content…
(1) We regard Kimas an acceptable candidate.

(2) *We regard Kimto be an acceptable candidate.

However, in an analysis of texts in the New York Times, Manning (2003:300) found examples such as 3, where regard can take a to-complement.

(3) Conservatives argue that the Bible regards homosexuality to be a sin.

Manning notes that counterexamples such as 3 were not anomalous: he found many additional discrepancies between Pollard and Sag's intuitions and the data appearing in his corpus. In commenting on Manning's observations, Newmeyer states:

Perhaps [example 2] is generated by Pollard's grammar and perhaps it is not. Perhaps [example 2] is generated by Sag's grammar and perhaps it is not. But we will never find out by reading the New York Times. The point is that we do not have `group minds'. No input data that an individual did not experience can be relevant to the nature of his or her grammar. (696)

But the issues raised by examples 1-3 have less to do with notions such as `group minds' and `input data' and more to do with how we collect data for the linguistic analyses that we conduct. Linguists arguing against the use of corpus data in favor of introspection seem to think that they have direct access to the native speaker's competence--that by consulting their own intuitions, they will be able to make `grammaticality judgments'. But does anyone (linguist or

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