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3.1 Some General Considerations Language and its use have been studied from varied points of view. One approach, assumed here, takes language to be part of the natural world. The human brain provides an array of capacities that enter into the use and understanding of language (the language faculty); these seem to be in good part specialized for that function and a common human endowment over a very wide range of circumstances and conditions. One component of the language faculty is a generative procedure (an I-language, henceforth language) that generates structural descriptions (SDs), each a complex of properties, including those commonly called “semantic” and “phonetic.” These SDs are the expressions of the language. The theory of a particular language is its grammar. The theory of languages and the expressions they generate is Universal Grammar (UG); UG is a theory of the initial state S0 of the relevant component of the language faculty. We can distinguish the language from a conceptual system and a system of pragmatic competence. Evidence has been accumulating that these interacting systems can be selectively impaired and developmentally dissociated (Curtiss 1981, Yamada 1990, Smith and Tsimpli 1991), and their properties are quite different. A standard assumption is that UG specifies certain linguistic levels, each a symbolic system, often called a “representational system.” Each linguistic level provides the means for presenting certain systematic information about linguistic expressions. Each linguistic expression (SD) is a sequence of representations , one at each linguistic level. In variants of the Extended Standard A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory 3 This chapter originally appeared in The View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger, edited by Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993), and is published here with minor revisions. 154 Chapter 3 Theory (EST), each SD is a sequence (δ, σ, π, λ), representations at the D-Structure, S-Structure, Phonetic Form (PF), and Logical Form (LF) levels, respectively. Some basic properties of language are unusual among biological systems, notably the property of discrete infinity. A working hypothesis in generative grammar has been that languages are based on simple principles that interact to form often intricate structures, and that the language faculty is nonredundant , in that particular phenomena are not “overdetermined” by principles of language. These too are unexpected features of complex biological systems, more like what one expects to find (for unexplained reasons) in the study of the inorganic world. The approach has, nevertheless, proven to be a successful one, suggesting that the hypotheses are more than just an artifact reflecting a mode of inquiry. Another recurrent theme has been the role of “principles of economy” in determining the computations and the SDs they generate. Such considerations have arisen in various forms and guises as theoretical perspectives have changed. There is, I think, good reason to believe that they are fundamental to the design of language, if properly understood.1 The language is embedded in performance systems that enable its expressions to be used for articulating, interpreting, referring, inquiring, reflecting, and other actions. We can think of the SD as a complex of instructions for these performance systems, providing information relevant to their functions. While there is no clear sense to the idea that language is “designed for use” or “well adapted to its functions,” we do expect to find connections between the properties of the language and the manner of its use. The performance systems appear to fall into two general types: articulatoryperceptual and conceptual-intentional. If so, a linguistic expression contains instructions for each of these systems. Two of the linguistic levels, then, are the interface levels A-P and C-I, providing the instructions for the articulatoryperceptual and conceptual-intentional systems, respectively. Each language determines a set of pairs drawn from the A-P and C-I levels. The level A-P has generally been taken to be PF; the status and character of C-I have been more controversial. Another standard assumption is that a language consists of two components: a lexicon and a computational system. The lexicon specifies the items that enter into the computational system, with their idiosyncratic properties. The computational system uses these elements to generate derivations and SDs. The derivation of a particular linguistic expression, then, involves a choice of items from the lexicon and a computation that constructs the pair of interface representations. A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory 155 So far we are within the domain of virtual conceptual necessity, at least if the general outlook...


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