Concluding remarks

Even if beginning with considerations about the nature of the relationship between narrow syntax and the C-I component and a proper direction of explanation of their properties may be said to fulfill King’s order and be ‘beginning at the beginning,’ we have certainly not ‘come to the end’: the foregoing remarks, indicating possible directions of further work, merely scratch the surface of the whole complex of issues arising in the context of elucidating the syntax-semantics transition with minimalist guidelines in mind. An important methodological principle for a minimalist inquiry into properties of narrow syntax, quoted in section 1.1.1 above, concerned ‘exotic constructions’:

There is also a general methodological point that should be kept in mind concerning “exotic constructions” such as ACD, parasitic gaps, or others for which the learner has little or no evidence (as is typically the case when the evidence is semantic). It is highly unlikely that they involve mechanisms other than those that account for simple and familiar constructions. There would be no way to learn such mechanisms, and it is implausible to think that they are properties of UG. These considerations impose significant constraints on investigation of these topics. Such investigation has often been highly revealing, but remains descriptive—posing problems to be solved—until this methodological condition is met. (Chomsky 2015b: 6-7)

Since much the same remarks concern the syntax-semantics transition and inner workings of the C-I component in general, they seem a proper guide to start a minimalist inquiry into the relationship between narrow syntax and the C-I component as it meets the former. A most general property exhibited by tentative analyses developed in the preceding discussion is their going over the assumption of ‘interface requirements’ in silence. That is not equivalent to dismissing hypotheses along such lines in advance; it seems however methodologically advisable to try to keep such assumptions to the barest minimum—given the degree of uncertainty about the nature and character of the C-I component, assuming such requirements to be null as a default, and, as a consequence, reversing the direction of explanatory work by taking the inquiry to be an ivestiga- tion of ways in which narrow syntax influences the C-I component and molds its interpretive mechanisms instead of understanding it as uncovering reflexes of C-I-related properties in narrow syntax. This stance conforms to the autonomy of syntax thesis throughout without supporting adoption of purely syntax-internal devices, although it does not provide syntactic properties and mechanisms with special ‘grammatical meaning' as it would do on an account which would straightforwardly identify narrow syntax and the C-I component (or a relevant subpart of it). Adopting such general assumptions imposes further restrictions on the syntax-related part of the theoretical machinery and should unveil the extent to which both sides, narrow syntax and the C-I component, operate in accordance with general computational principles, MC in particular, without additional factors entering the picture.

A property which has made recurrent appearance is the absence of substitutional operations in narrow syntax and, by hypothesis, also in the C-I component in its syntax-related compartment. It requires that pre-linguistic conceptual resources constrain interpretations of syntactic structures by a direct contact with the C-I subsystem dedicated to interpretation of the syntactic output; but it allows by the same token construction of syntactically structured concepts variously diverging from the original ones; it demands that logically important processes be relegated to later stages of cognitive work (a point of direct relevance for attempts to ground semantic analyses in inferential properties of expressions—to mention but one, post-Davidsonian views on semantics and corresponding syntactic structures belong to this sort of theories; see recently Reichard (2012), Reichard and Hinzen (2016) for a criticism of such approach within a different framework of assumptions); but it simultaneously allows, to quote Chomsky (2009: 29) once again, the ‘emergence of unbounded Merge’ to give rise to ‘conceptual resources that (...) may develop with the availability of structured expressions’; it imposes severe limits on the construction of structures which might serve the duty of complex predicates and forces the use of semantic substitution in all structures which would otherwise admit of syntactic substitution; but it concomitantly triggers interpretation of occurrences constituting discontinuous syntactic objects which provides foundation for an enormous variety of conceptualizations of objects belonging to the world of human experience, a crucial ingredient in epistemically loaded activities which the C-I system undertakes (see recently Sher (2016) for an extensive discussion of the relationship between ‘epistemic freedom’ and ‘epistemic friction’). Although obviously not ‘the end’ which the King saw as an appropriate place to stop, that seems a promising place to start attempts to ‘go beyond descriptive adequacy’ in the semantic theory, moving towards the horizon, however far away it may be:

With each step towards the goals of principled explanation we gain a clearer grasp of

the essential nature of language, and of what remains to be explained in other terms. It

should be kept in mind, however, that any such progress still leaves unresolved problems that have been raised for hundreds of years. Among these is the question how properties “termed mental” relate to “the organical structure of the brain,” in the eighteenth- century formulation. And beyond that lies the mysterious problem of the creative and coherent ordinary use of language, a central problem of Cartesian science, still scarcely even at the horizons of inquiry. (Chomsky 2009: 32)

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >