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Symmetry Breaking and Symmetry Restoration

Evidence from English Syntax of Coordination

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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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Chapter 3: SSB, symmetry restoration and syntactic categories

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3.1    Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to provide support to the SSB hypothesis advocated in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 by discussing empirical evidence based on some facts regarding the nature of syntactic categories in English and other languages. The role of the concrete empirical evidence from English and other languages proffered in this chapter is to strengthen the SSB hypothesis advocated in more abstract terms in Chapter 2 in the context of the emergence of operation Label. Firstly, symmetry considerations from Chapter 1 are appealed to by the application of the physical notion of SSB to linguistics (following some of the literature, e.g. Boeckx (2008) and Hornstein (2009)). Then, I refer to the issues considered in Chapter 2 where the phenomena discussed in Chapter 1 are viewed from the perspective of the interactions between symmetric protolanguage and asymmetric present-day faculty of language (FL) based on the asymmetric operation Merge. As mentioned in Chapter 2, what is associated with the transition between the syntax-less protolanguage (as Bicketron (1998) calls it) and syntax-ful language is the emergence of operation Label in a protolanguage that already makes use of the more primitive operations Concatenate and Copy. The emergence of Label, as Hornstein (2009) claims, is responsible for the recursion-based FL, according to the scheme in (52).

(53)   Concatenate + Label → Merge

In this chapter frequent reference will be made to the operation Label, but it will be treated it in a less...

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