Computational Perspectives on Minimalism

Edward P. Stabler

in The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Minimalism

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199549368
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Computational Perspectives on Minimalism

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  • Linguistics
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology
  • Computational Linguistics


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While research in the ‘principles and parameters’ tradition can be regarded as attributing as much as possible to universal grammar (UG) in order to understand how language acquisition is possible, Chomsky characterizes the ‘minimalist program’ as an effort to attribute as little as possible to UG while still accounting for the apparent diversity of human languages. These two research strategies aim to be compatible, and ultimately should converge. Several of Chomsky's own early contributions to the minimalist program have been fundamental and simple enough to allow easy mathematical and computational study. Among these are (i) the characterization of ‘bare phrase structure’; and (ii) the definition of a structure building operation Merge which applies freely to lexical material, with constraints that ‘filter’ the results only at the phonetic form and logical form interfaces. The first studies inspired by (i) and (ii) are ‘stripped down’ to such a degree that they may seem unrelated to minimalist proposals, but this article shows how some easy steps begin to bridge the gap. It briefly surveys some proposals about (iii) syntactic features that license structure building; (iv) ‘locality’, the domain over which structure building functions operate,; (v) ‘linearization’, determining the order of pronounced forms; and (vi) the proposal that Merge involves copying.

Keywords: universal grammar; Chomsky; minimalist program; structure building; locality; linearization; Merge; copying

Article.  9809 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology ; Computational Linguistics

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