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Symmetry Breaking and Symmetry Restoration

Evidence from English Syntax of Coordination


Szymon J. Napierała

This book treats the faculty of language as part of the Universe subject to physical laws. It presents phenomena from syntax and semantics in the interdisciplinary context. The author analyses the origin of syntax and semantics as autonomous modules (asymmetry), even though they display parallelisms (symmetry). He presents linguistic phenomena in the interdisciplinary context where spontaneous symmetry breaking has a central explanatory role, as it is the case in the physical world.

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Appendix – response to some criticism


1.  Pirahã and Riau Indonesian

Piotr Stalmaszczyk (2015, personal communication), suggests that it might be safer from epistemological perspective to focus on synchronic or diachronic processes in Romance languages while discussing symmetric and asymmetric phenomena in FL rather than on the data from Pirahã and Riau Indonesian. As he mentions, the linguistic data from Pirahã and Riau Indonesian are burdened with numerous interpretation problems, which makes them somewhat problematic with respect to testing scientific hypotheses.

Indeed, these issues are fraught with multifarious interpretation problems, especially with regard to the linguistic facts from Pirahã. Ignoring such data is probably safer due to lessening the probability of misinterpretation thereof. Nevertheless, I would like to stress the significance of harmonizing two seemingly mutually exclusive approaches in the scientific endeavor. On one hand, it is the need to provide unambiguous examples and empirical data for the sake of scientific hypotheses and theories with very careful approach to the empirical material used in the subsequent stages of scientific pursuit. On the other hand, there is potential for scientific inspiration in the wide array of possible examples, including the controversial ones. I think that the two approaches do not need to be mutually exclusive, they may turn up to be complementary, as two wings needed for balance in a flight.

The situation is similar to the balance between lumpers’ and splitters’ approaches to genetic classification of languages. The methodology of the lumpers is to make it possible to...

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