An Emergentist Approach to Syntax

William O'Grady

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis

Published in print December 2009 | ISBN: 9780199544004
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

An Emergentist Approach to Syntax

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



Syntax constitutes a challenging area for emergentist research, since traditional grammar-based frameworks have reported significant success in their analysis of many important phenomena. This chapter considers a number of those phenomena from an emergentist perspective in order to show how they can be understood in terms of the interaction of lexical properties with a simple efficiency-driven processor, without reference to grammatical principles. It proposes ideas that rest on two key claims: (i) syntactic theory can and should be unified with the theory of sentence processing; and (ii) the mechanisms required to account for the traditional concerns of syntactic theory (e.g., the design of phrase structure, pronoun interpretation, control, agreement, contraction, scope, island constraints, and the like) are identical to the mechanisms which are independently required to account for how sentences are processed from ‘left to right’ in real time.

Keywords: syntax; emergentist research; lexical properties; syntactic theory; sentence processing

Article.  8935 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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