Monday, October 27, 2014

Some naive thoughts on intuition

Much of the last two weeks has been spent trying to get my head around what a head is. A representative definition might be.
A head is the syntactic function of the dominant constituent within a phrase to which other constituents are subordinate or a two-word dependency relationship. “In the simplest account, other units depend on it” (Matthews 2007:191).
My starting point was Zwicky (1985), for no better reason than that’s what I stumbled on first. And this was where the issue of intuition came up. Zwicky writes,
The intuition to be captured with the notion HEAD is that in certain syntactic constructs one constituent in some sense ‘characterizes’ or ‘dominates’ the whole. (2)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Hudson on Zwicky on heads

As you can see, I've been reading Hudson's on syntactic relations. In his 1987 paper, like the others, it’s hard to judge the arguments because I don’t have a view of the whole system that he's working in. As so many linguists do, he suggests a few items and leaves it to the reader to imagine the complete set he has in mind. Nevertheless, my impression is of very interested data, opportunistically deployed: lots of cherry picking going on here. Not that others don’t do the same. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hudson on "determiners"

In a 2004 paper, Dick Hudson casts doubt on the very idea of determiners. But like so many others, he appears to confound the idea of a category and a function.