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Eliminating Empty Categories

A Radically Minimalist View on Their Ontology and Justification


Diego Gabriel Krivochen and Peter Kosta

This collaborative book has a twofold purpose. On the one hand, the authors present a new framework – Radical Minimalism. The development of such a framework, with a strong basis on mathematics and physics, was born out of the conviction that, if language is really a natural object, there is no a priori reason to study it in isolation from other natural systems. On the other hand, this work represents a significant simplification of the theory of displacement and so-called «empty categories» within the latest development of Chomsky’s Strong Minimalist Hypothesis, applying Occam’s razor and fulfilling Lakatos’ requirements for scientific evolution. Radical Minimalism thus accounts not only for the phenomena orthodox minimalism has explanations for, but also for empirical problems that have not yet been taken into consideration.


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It is widely assumed nowadays within Formal Linguistics that a Theory of Grammar should provide explanations for two core properties of natural lan- guages:  Recursion: including phrase structure, constituency, and the generative engine; the fact that a symbol can contain itself in some point of the deri- vation. In Humboldt’s terms, “the infinite use of finite media”.  Displacement: the fact that elements are interpreted in different places from which they appear phonologically. Within Generative Grammar there is a further assumption regarding the archi- tecture of the (cognitive) system, traceable to Chomsky (1965) and developed under the Minimalist framework (Chomsky, 1995 et. seq.), basically, the “Y- model”, a consisting on a generative component in charge of structural descrip- tions of sentences (usually referred to as “syntax”) and two interpretative com- ponents in charge of reading the computation’s output (a phonological and a se- mantic one, to account for the double character of the linguistic sign): (1) The interaction between these groups of assumptions has been expressed in dif- ferent ways, namely the Projection Principle (Chomsky 1981), the Full Interpre- tation Principle (Chomsky 1995) and the Inclusiveness Condition (Chomsky 1995). Underlying this theoretical apparatus is the claim that the best linguistic theory, which should provide an evaluation procedure for grammars (understood as particular formalizations of the properties of a language L), is the simplest and more parsimonious one (Chomsky 1957). However, the accounts for the aforementioned properties of natural languages did (and do) not always go along those methodological lines, entering in...

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