Back to list

Detail of contribution

Auteur: Tobias SCHEER

What about third factor patterns?

Abstract/Résumé: Addressing points 2 and 5 of the session description, this talk tackles two consequences of the biolinguistic approach in general, and of the priority given to third factor explanations in particular. These are 1) the fact that objects of scientific inquiry become more global and 2) the fact that these more global, not specifically linguistic properties of the (human or animal) cognitive system produce linguistic patterns that do not seem to surface outside of language. The question is why, for example, the syllabic pattern of the coda does not appear to occur in human cognitive functions other than language (or phonology), and is not produced by relevant non-human primates. Under third factor and biolinguistic assumptions that exclude phonology from UG and grant full phonological competence to certain non-human primates, we expect that the same general cognitive design properties produce the same patterns wherever they rule, i.e. including in non-linguistic human and non-human cognition. What is at stake, then, is not the count of all kinds of sophisticated things that animals can perform in perception (as Samuels 2009:355 puts it, "virtually all the abilities that underlie phonological competence have been shown in other species"), but the actual patterns that they produce as the result of their cognitive activity. Syllable structure is a pervasive property of natural language, and the most important distinction is between closed and open syllables, i.e. ones that do vs. do not bear a coda. A consonant is a coda iff it occurs either string- (word-)finally, or before another consonant (further sonority-related intricacies left aside). The coda pattern thus identifies as the disjunction __{#,C}. In order to show that animals are equipped to do human phonology, it would need to be shown that, given two sets of items A and B (A being consonants in phonology, B vowels), they either naturally produce or are able to extract from a linear stimulus those A-tokens that occur before another A and string-finally (A2 and A5 in #A1BA2A3BA4BA5#), to the exclusion of all other As. Chomskyan minimalism/biolinguistics as much as anti-chomskyan "Cognitive" Grammar (e.g. Taylor 2002) converge in the effort to explain properties of grammar by more general properties of the cognitive system. The talk argues for delineating targets of inquiry that are smaller and more accessible than the kind of global cognitive properties that the third factor strategy produces. Two such items are discussed: a design property of morpho-syntax, concatenation, and an input condition of phonology, linearity.