Macrolinguistics (2016-06-01)

Relevance of Linguistic Typology to Formal Theory: Minimalist Inquiry and Word Order

  • Jae Jung Song

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 4, no. 3
pp. 37 – 51


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This article argues that the theoretical desiderata of Minimalist Program (MP) will actually necessitate, or even force, a high level of sensitivity to cross-linguistic structural variation, at least higher than has been the case in Principles and Parameters Theory. Moreover, this heightened sensitivity to cross-linguistic variation is likely to call into question two fundamental assumptions in Generative Grammar (GG), namely the distinction between competence and performance as well as the objection to the inclusion of performance in linguistic theory. By drawing on word order and, to a lesser extent, case marking (also related ultimately to linearization) for purposes of illustration, the article will explain how GG, as reconfigured in MP, needs Linguistic Typology more than ever, as MP theorists are becoming increasingly aware of the relevance of cross-linguistic variation to their minimalist inquiry. Furthermore, functional motivations or explanations (e.g. performance), typically utilized in LT, are likely to resonate well with the minimalist focus on so-called interface conditions.