The Historiography of Generative Linguistics - András Kertész - ebook

The Historiography of Generative Linguistics ebook

András Kertész



Although the past decades have seen a great diversity of approaches to the history of generative linguistics, there has been no systematic analysis of the state of the art. The aim of the book is to fill this gap. Part I provides an unbiased, balanced and impartial overview of numerous approaches to the history of generative linguistics. In addition, it evaluates the approaches thus discussed against a set of evaluation criteria. Part II demonstrates in a case study the workability of a model of plausible argumentation that goes beyond the limits of current historiographical approaches. Due to the comprehensive analysis of the state of the art, the book may be useful for graduate and undergraduate students. However, since it is also intended to enrich the historiography of linguistics in a novel way, the book may also attract the attention of both linguists interested in the history of science, and historians of science interested in linguistics.

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András Kertész

The Historiography of Generative Linguistics

Narr Francke Attempto Verlag Tübingen



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»[…] controversy is the ...Preface1 Introduction1.1 The problem (P)1.2 The structure of the book1.3 Background information: The Kuhnian approach to ›scientific revolution‹Part 1: Metahistoriographical overview2 From ›scientific revolution‹ to ›unscientific revolution‹2.0 Introduction2.1 ›Syntactic Structures‹ (Chomsky 1957)2.1.0 Background information2.1.1 Revolution2.1.2 No revolution2.2 ›Aspects of the Theory of Syntax‹ (Chomsky 1965)2.2.0 Background information2.2.1 Kuhnian revolution2.2.2 No revolution2.3 ›The Sound Pattern of English‹ (Chomsky & Halle 1968)2.3.0 Background information2.3.1 Kuhnian revolution2.4 ›Lectures on Government and Binding‹ (Chomsky 1981)2.4.0 Background information2.4.1 Revolution2.4.2 No revolution2.5 ›The Minimalist Program‹ (Chomsky 1995)2.5.0 Background information2.5.1 Revolution2.5.2 No revolution2.6 Digression: Chomsky’s self-assessment2.7 Summary2.7.1 Overview2.7.2 Relevant correlations among the approaches2.7.3 Relevant differences among the approaches3 Metahistoriographical evaluation3.0 Introduction3.1 Factors weakening the credibility of (MP1)-(MP22)3.1.1 Bias3.1.2 Method3.2 SummaryPart 2: Toward a new historiographyhistoriography4 Historiography and plausible argumentation4.0 Introduction4.1 A possible solution to (P): (SP23)4.2 The p-model4.2.1 The main features of the p-model4.2.2 An outline of the p-model4.3 Summary5 Case study5.0 Introduction5.0.1 The problem5.0.2 The structure of the chapter5.0.3 The starting and the final p-context5.1 First example: What is a ›language‹?5.2 Second example: What sort of grammar is needed?5.2.0 The p-problem5.2.1 English is not a finite state language5.2.2 Phrase structure5.2.3 Transformations5.2.4 The solution of the p-problem5.3 Third example: the introduction of the evaluation procedure5.4 Summary6 Open questions6.0 Introduction6.1 Historical stages6.1.1 What kind of relationship is there between the problem solutions of a particular historical stage and the more effective problem solutions of the next stage immediately following it?6.1.2 How should (SP23) treat cases in which in particular stages of generative linguistics problem solutions emerge that have previously been rejected in some earlier stage?6.1.3 How should (SP23) treat cases in which an earlier stage raised and tried to solve problems that a later stage could not cope with?6.1.4 What are the constant elements that are present in every developmental stage of generative linguistics?6.2 Rivals6.2.1 What is the relationship between Chomskyan generative linguistics and its alternatives within theoretical linguistics?6.2.2 What is the relationship between the cognitivism of generative linguistics and behaviorism?6.3 Summary7 Conclusions7.0 Introduction7.1 The contribution of (SP23) to linguistic historiography7.2 The contribution of (SP23) to linguistics7.3 Summary: Why should linguists get out of bed in the morning?ReferencesIndex of NamesIndex of Subjects

»[…] controversy is the breath of science and when we all agree it will be only because our science is dead.« (Emmon Bach 1965: 128)


Over the past decades, the historiographyhistoriography of linguistics has progressed from being a peripheral, understated discipline practiced by only a few to becoming a prospering and recognized subfield of linguistics producing an extensive academic literature.1 A literature which has many prominent authors and receives international institutional support: renowned publishing houses publish journals, book series and monographs related to the historyhistory of linguistics. Societies of linguistic historiography have been established and a large number of conferences are regularly organized. What has motivated this dynamic development of linguistic historiography? Two factors seem to be of relevance:

(a) A cardinal motivation behind the boost in linguistic historiographyhistoriography research has been the revival of a general interest in the historyhistory of science. In the second half of the twentieth century the central claims of the analytical philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science – involving both logicallogic positivism and critical rationalism – were drastically shaken (not exclusively but decisively) as a result of KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It has been in the work of Kuhn (1970) [1962], and later LakatosLakatos, Imre (1970a), (1970b) that among others, the view that there is a close interaction between the philosophy and the historiography of science, has been put forward,2 and that, accordingly, the foundational problems of scientificscientific inquiry are related to the processes of the history of science.3

(b) The other factor that has motivated the emergence of linguistic historiographyhistoriography has been the successful development of linguistics throughout the twentieth century. One of the reasons why linguistic historiography might have attracted increasing interest is that the most successful trends in linguistics – Saussure’s structuralismstructuralism, the Prague Linguistic Circle, American descriptivism, generative linguistics and others – influenced trends in twentieth century science even outside linguistics, thereby contributing to the re-organization of particular disciplines, and fostering the integration of the findings produced in a range of fields.4 Generative linguistics stands out in this process as the most fiercely debated but still most influential school in linguistics in the second half of the twentieth century. Not only has it triggered substantial changes in linguistics, it has also contributed to the debates of other disciplines, especially the subdisciplines of cognitivecognitive science, the philosophy of languagelanguage and the philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science.

One consequence of the interplay between the growing general interest in the historiographyhistoriography of science and the controversial reception of generative linguistics is that besides the field of generative linguistics itself, the historyhistory of the field has also moved into the center of attention. Another consequence is that there is an extreme diversity of historiographical approaches to generative linguistics competing with each other, and, as is quite well known, most of them are spectacularly biasedbias. This state of affairs greatly deepens the divided nature of linguistics, as is witnessed by the harsh criticism and at times extremely bitter debates among the different branches of linguistics. The third consequence concerns the fact that not only is the historiography of generative linguistics a metascientificmetascientific enterprise aiming at the investigation of its object, namely, the history of generative linguistics, but what is more – as we will see later –, historiography is at the same time also used as the tool of linguistic argumentation, which can effectively be applied in arguing either for or against generative linguistics. Therefore, it has an impact on its own object of investigation, namely, on certain processes of the development of generative linguistics and its relation to rival trends.

However, despite the factors mentioned above and their consequences, so far no systematic analysis of the historiographicalhistoriography approaches to the historyhistory of generative linguistics has been available. In the present monograph we attempt to fill this gap.

The book has – within the limits of a short monograph – a threefold aim:



Our first aim is to provide an unbiased, balanced and impartial overview of the pluralismpluralism of the approaches documented in historiographicalhistoriography literature.



The second aim of the book is to reveal the factors which may weaken the credibility of the historiographicalhistoriography positions to be discussed.



Our third aim is to demonstrate in a case study the workability of a new historiographicalhistoriography approach which goes beyond the limits of current approaches and which may shed fresh light on the historyhistory of generative linguistics.

We will join neither the proponents nor the opponents of generative linguistics. We confine the overview and the systematic analysis of the state of the art to approaches which explicitly define themselves as historiographicalhistoriography. The linguistic debates raised by ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s works are outside the scope of the present study.

In accordance with aims (A)(b) and (A)(c), the book is intended to enrich the historiographyhistoriography of linguistics. Therefore, it may attract the attention of both linguists interested in the historyhistory of science, and historians of science interested in linguistics. However, the book presupposes only a basic knowledge of linguistics. It does not assume research skills or detailed knowledge of linguistic theorizing, the history of linguistics, nor the philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science. The background information necessary for the understanding of our line of reasoning will be concisely introduced. Thus, due to the systematic overview of the state of the art in accord with aim (A)(a) mentioned above, the monograph can also be useful for graduate and undergraduate students of linguistics.

I am grateful to the referees as well as to Ferenc KieferKiefer, Ferenc, Edith A. MoravcsikMoravcsik, Edith A., Frederick J. NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J. and Csilla RákosiRákosi, Csilla for helpful comments on earlier drafts. My special thanks are due to Katinka HalászHalász, Katinka for her insightful contribution to the improvement of my work and the cover design. Any remaining shortcomings are entirely my own responsibility. I also thank Elsevier and John Benjamins for permission to include in the present volume excerpts from the following publications: »From ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹ to ›unscientific revolutionrevolutionunscientific‹. An analysis of approaches to the historyhistory of generative linguistics.« Language Sciences32 (2010), 507–527; »Two notions of ›research programresearchprogram‹ and the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics.« Historiographia Linguistica37 (2010), 165–191.


1.1The problem (P)

John E. JosephJoseph, John E. (1995) describes linguists in his seminal review article entitled The Structure of Linguistic Revolutions – the title of which alludes to Thomas S. KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s famous book – in the following way:

Rare is the linguist who does not consider himself part of a linguistic revolutionrevolutionlinguistic accomplished in recent memory, or in progressprogress, or both. […] Revolution […] is the master plot for linguistic historyhistory, what gives sense to our work and careers, what makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning(JosephJoseph, John E.1995: 379; emphasis added).

He characterizes the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as follows:

The department is unique in having fostered over the last forty years not one, but easily a dozen large-scale or small-scale linguistic revolutionrevolutionlinguistics. Most of them have been revolutions against earlier revolutions spawned there as well. More amazingly still, many of them have been led by the same man, revolting against his own program of a few years before: Noam ChomskyChomsky, Noam, Serial Revolutionary(JosephJoseph, John E.1995: 380; emphasis added).1

Noam ChomskyChomsky, Noam is not the only outstanding staff member of the above mentioned department: another was Thomas S. KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (1922–1996), author of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, who brought about a fundamental change concerning previous ideas about the development of science, and who – like Chomsky himself – became one of the most quoted, the most frequently praised, and at the same time the most harshly criticized authors of the twentieth century. While according to JosephJoseph, John E. (1995: 380), there was no professional cooperation documented between Chomsky and Kuhn, their works are linked in a peculiar way by the term ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹. Kuhn proposed an approach to the historiographyhistoriography of science the fundamental idea of which is that the development of the natural sciencesciencenaturals is not of a cumulative nature, but, rather, is made up of paradigmparadigm shifts that are the results of crises and revolutions questioning the previous scientific worldview (Kuhn 1962 [1970]). Against the background of these ideas, Chomsky’s activity has been termed ›Chomsky’s revolution‹.

Nevertheless, the association of the term ›revolution‹ with the historyhistory of generative linguistics raised heated debates. Some of the historiographicalhistoriography approaches to generative linguistics do not doubt the thesis claiming its revolutionaryrevolutionary nature, along with the applicability of KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s framework to the history of linguistics. Others reject this term, this thesis and this framework, and use significantly different labels, ranging from ›revolution‹ in a non-KuhnianKuhnian sense through, for example, ›evolutionevolution‹, ›coupcoup‹, ›erosionerosion‹, ›spurious sciencesciencespurious‹ to ›unscientific revolutionrevolutionunscientific‹. Thus, the history of generative linguistics poses a challenge for the historiography of linguistics. It poses a challenge because, first, the historiography of generative linguistics, similarly to that of all sciences, needs to find a framework – including its central hypothesis and its basic terms – which might be used to investigate its object of investigation, namely, the description of the rise, the internal development and the significance of generative linguistics, as well as its relation to other linguistic trends.

Second, the heated debates mentioned above, and the, at times, radical approaches to the topic, make this task a very difficult enterprise primarily because the literature is considered to be extremely biasedbias in nature.

In order to meet this challenge in the present book, we will raise the main problem of the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics as follows:


What historiographicalhistoriographyframework, central hypothesis and basic terms can account for the historyhistory of generative linguistics?

1.2The structure of the book

Our line of reasoning consists of two parts, in accordance with our problem, marked (P) and our aims (A)(a)-(c), sketched in the Preface.

In Part 1, we will examine 22 different approaches to the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics which offer alternative solutions to the problem in (P). We do not wish to analyze and evaluate the achievements of generative linguistics; instead, we will focus on how historiographers of linguistics analyze and evaluate its historyhistory. Accordingly, the first part of the book is of a metahistoriographicalmetahistoriographical nature.

Within this part, in Chapter 2 – following aim (A)(a) mentioned in the Preface – we will reconstruct the alternative solutions to (P) as proposed in the relevant literature, and thereby highlight their diversity. In order to meet the philological requirements of historiographyhistoriography, we will document our claims by making extensive use of quotations and citations.

As the next step in our reasoning – in line with aim (A)(b) –, in Chapter 3 we will give a metahistoriographicalmetahistoriographical evaluation of the historiographicalhistoriography approaches surveyed in Chapter 2. We will examine to what extent and in what way they meet a set of criteria that historiographical approaches are expected to meet.

Part 2 of the monograph contributes to the field of historiographyhistoriography: in accordance with aim (A)(c), we will outline a possible novel approach to the historiography of generative linguistics. Within Part 2, Chapter 4 proposes a historiographical extension of Kertész &Kertész, AndrásRákosiRákosi, Csilla’s (2012) p-modelmodelp- of linguistic theorizing.

Chapter 5 is a case study, with which we wish to illustrate that the historiographicalhistoriography application of this model conforms to the criteria discussed in Chapter 3.

Chapter 6 tackles the open questions which have to be faced by any approach to the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics, and consequently, by our own as well, the detailed discussion of which, however, would go beyond the scope of the book.

Finally, in Chapter 7 we will summarize our major findings.

Before we take the first step of the investigation we have just sketched out, let us give a brief overview of KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s ideas about scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientifics, which constitute the main point of departure for approaches to the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics, as well as the present monograph.

1.3Background information: The KuhnianKuhnian approach to ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹

In order to highlight KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s impact on our understanding of how science works, let us start with remarking that in the first half of the twentieth century, it was the standard view of the analytical philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science that determined the norms of scientificscientific inquiry. This view subsumes two dominant trends: one is logicallogic positivism focusing on the inductiveinductive method and striving for the verification of empirical claims (associated with the work of Rudolf Carnap), the other is critical rationalism centering on the hypothetico-deductivedeductive structure of theories and characterizing empirical claims as being falsifiable (whose main figure was Karl PopperPopper, Karl R.).1 Some of the main tenets of the standard view of the analytical philosophy of science, with respect to Kuhn’s ideas, which challenged it, are as follows:

Only theories conforming to the norms of rationality can be regarded as scientificscientific.

Rationality is governed by principles that do not depend on communities and do not change in time.

The ›context of discovery‹ and the ›context of justification‹ should be distinguished. The reason why this distinction was introduced is the conviction that ›the context of discovery‹ – that is cognitivecognitive factors such as scientificscientific creativity and intuition, as well as the historical and socialsocial factors that may influence the process of theorytheory formation – can neither be revealed nor controlled. Therefore, rational reconstruction deems them irrelevant. It is solely certain characteristics of the final product of the discovery process – i.e. the static logicallogic structure and the empirical foundation of closed scientific theories – which can be assigned significance during the justification of theories. Consequently, the philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science aims at the posterior justification of well-developed scientific theories with the help of their rational reconstruction.

Empirical scientificscientific theories are deductivedeductive (axiomatic) systems.

KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. challenged this view by arguing that the nature of scientificscientific knowledge is very different from what the standard view of the philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science assumed. He argued that the ways in which scientific inquiry works cannot be derived from allegedly predetermined, unchanging and absolute principles of rationality; instead, the patterns which scientific inquiry follows are changeable and therefore are to be examined within their socialsocial and historical context. The result of the historical development of scientific knowledge and the historical process itself are closely interwoven. Therefore, the distinction between the context of discovery and the context of justification must be given up, and, in turn, the nature of science can be better understood by revealing the historical processes shaping it.

According to KuhnKuhn, Thomas S., the development of disciplines should be divided into two major stages (Kuhn 1970 [1962]: 11 ff). In the immatureimmature stage each scholar builds up the particular discipline from its basics. Accordingly, at that stage there are many rival views on the subject, aim and methodologymethodology of the research; therefore, research in the immature stage is pluralistic, and lacks integrity in terms of ontology, methodology and the foundations of science. In the maturemature stage, however, one of the rival views emerges as the dominant one, and becomes the model to be followed in research in the particular field (Kuhn 1970 [1962]: 16f.). Kuhn termed such a pattern a paradigmparadigm. It is the emergence of the first paradigm that makes a discipline mature.2

The research carried out within a particular paradigmparadigm is called normal sciencesciencenormal. KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. compares normal scientificscientific research to ›puzzle-solving‹, the essence of which is that the range of problems, the methods of their solution and the boundaries of the acceptable solutions are defined by patterns codified in the research community. Scholars should refrain from significantly diverging from these patterns. This kind of normal science is practiced by scholars working in the well-developed natural sciencesciencenaturals. However, socialsocial sciences have been stuck in a state of pluralismpluralism with a great variety of possible scientific methods, basic hypotheses and views on the foundational questions of the particular discipline (Kuhn 1970 [1962]: 15, 20, 37, 160). They have not yet created their first paradigm, hence they are immatureimmature.3

During research in the maturemature stage, however, anomaliesanomaly tend to accumulate. Sooner or later such anomalies lead to a crisiscrisis(KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.1970 [1962]: 66ff.). Anomalies are problems that cannot be solved by conforming to the previously accepted patterns. They suggest the need for the modification or rejection of those patterns, as well as the need for the extension of the acceptable set of problem solutions. As a result of the crisis, rival views to the paradigmparadigm appear, one of which will emerge and spark a scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific. As a result of the scientific revolution, the new system of views becomes firmer, and a new paradigm replaces the previous one. Both an outstanding personality and textbooks that communicate the new patterns to the younger generation contribute to the victory of the new paradigm.4 The views advocated by representatives of the old and the new paradigm are incommensurableincommensurable, which means that their followers act in ›different worlds‹ and they do not even understand each other.5 Since the generation supporting the new paradigm is not able to change the views of the older generation backing the old one, the paradigm shift takes place only after the representatives of the old paradigm have died out (Kuhn 1970 (1962]: 150).

KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s work generated extraordinary responses among historians and philosophers of science. Not only because of the originality of his thought, which questioned the long approved views on science, but also because he presented his arguments in an essayistic manner, with ambiguous wording and vague terminology. For instance, he did not define precisely the term ›paradigmparadigm‹ and the criteria of a paradigm shift. However, for the purpose of later references in the following chapters, we summarize the above-mentioned terms in the following list:

The difference between maturemature and immatureimmature stages in the historyhistory of a discipline;

Paradigm as a coherent research traditionresearchtradition;

Normal science as puzzle-solving;

The dominance of a single paradigmparadigm in a discipline;

The emergence of anomaliesanomaly within normal sciencesciencenormal;

The crisiscrisis of the old paradigmparadigm;

Textbooks and outstanding individuals central to the dominance of the paradigmparadigm;

Scientific revolution;

The incommensurabilityincommensurable of the old and the new paradigmparadigm;

The disappearance of the followers of the old paradigmparadigm.

Part 1: Metahistoriographical overview

2From ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹ to ›unscientific revolutionrevolutionunscientific‹


The systematization of the approaches surveyed in this chapter is based on the following three criteria:

First of all, we will restrict the term ›generative linguistics‹ to ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s work and use it in the sense of ›Chomsky’s generative linguistics‹.1 The sections discuss diverse solutions to (P) with respect to Chomsky’s publications that have been regarded as milestones and are substantially referred to in the historiographicalhistoriography literature: Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures (2.1), AspectsAspects of the Theory of Syntax (2.2.), The Sound Pattern of English (2.3), Lectures on Government and Binding (2.4) and finally, the Minimalist ProgramMinimalist Program (2.5). Each section devoted to the diverse historiographical approaches to these works will start with an introductory subsection which sketches basic features of Chomsky’s work at issue. These sketches serve as background information for those readers who are less familiar with generative linguistics and thus they prepare the understanding of the historiographical approaches, which presuppose this knowledge; nevertheless, they are not intended as a comprehensive introduction to the theorytheory and practice of generative linguistics. By doing this, we will try to present these pieces of information in as value-free a manner as possible2 – in order to do so, the very concise summaries of basic tenets will be illustrated by numerous quotations from Chomsky’s works at issue, so that we let him speak, rather than present the interpretations of the present author. Later, we will see how the historiographical literature, in many different ways, enriches them by its evaluations, its intellectual and socialsocial preferences, and its legitimizing attitudes.

Figure 1

Second, it is KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s term ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹ that provides the point of departure for the systematization. Figure 1 shows the main categories of the systematization with respect to this term. The categories, however, are to be understood in a more refined manner than the figure shows, because in the literature not all main categories are represented with respect to all Chomskyan publications mentioned in the previous paragraph. Moreover, the analysis of the literature will show that in the particular historiographicalhistoriography approaches the main categories should be subdivided into subcategories in different ways. Finally, the terminology is vague in many of the historiographical approaches (see also Section on this).

The third criterion is that in the various sections we will discuss the different solutions to (P) by reconstructing their basic terms, their central hypotheses and the historiographicalhistoriography frameworks they apply.

The order in which we present the set of approaches that discuss the role of ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s different works in the context of the historyhistory of linguistics will be systematic, rather than chronological. The sections presenting the different solutions to (P) vary in length and detail, because the approaches are highly heterogeneous in terms of their genre, historiographicalhistoriography foundation, scope, and significance. We will provide a more extensive discussion of those approaches that present a sophisticated and refined description of the applied historiographical framework, or that have been widely debated.

2.1›Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures‹ (ChomskyChomsky, Noam1957)

2.1.0Background information

Basically, it is ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s (1957) Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures that is considered to be the first seminal contribution to generative linguistics (but see footnote 1), although its text is rooted in his manuscript of 1955 entitled The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory as well as in talks and papers.1 The main features of this work, which will be referred to in the next sections are as follows:

While BloomfieldianBloomfieldian and neo-Bloomfieldianneo-Bloomfieldian linguistics focused on phonologyphonology (in their terminology: phonemicsphonemics) and morphologymorphology, ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s approach centers on syntax.2

While for BloomfieldianBloomfieldian and neo-Bloomfieldianneo-Bloomfieldian linguists the main task was to reveal morphememorpheme classes based on distributionaldistributional properties, according to Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures the goal of syntactic research is to construct a grammargrammar of a given languagelanguage that is capable of producing all the grammatically well-formed sentences, and only the grammatically well-formed ones.3

ChomskyChomsky, Noam introduces the distinction between ›grammaticalgrammatical‹ and ›ungrammaticalungrammatical‹ sentences.4

The grammargrammar is capable of generating an infiniteinfinite number of sentences from a finitefinite set of elements.5

In accordance with the Popperian trend of the analytical philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science, basically, grammars are to be conceived of as deductivedeductive theories characteristic of the natural sciencesciencenaturals, primarily physicsphysics.6

As opposed to BloomfieldianBloomfieldian and neo-Bloomfieldianneo-Bloomfieldian linguistics, Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures assumes that there is no inductiveinductive procedure that facilitates the discovery of the correct grammargrammar. Instead, an evaluation procedureevaluation procedure is needed, the application of which may lead to the selection of the best grammar from possible candidates irrespective of how they were arrived at.7 From two alternative grammars the simpler one should be chosen.

The grammargrammar consists of three levels: phrase structurephrase structure, transformationstransformation and morphosyntax.8

The grammargrammar rests on a mathematicalmathematical foundation consisting of an algorithmicalgorithm formalism.9

Syntax is autonomous insofar as its rules are not determined by semantics.10

As we will demonstrate in the next sections, these features of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures have been interpreted and evaluated very differently by particular historiographicalhistoriography approaches.11

2.1.1Revolution and the climate of opinionclimate of opinion

Since the second half of the 1960s, numerous works have been published which call Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures›revolutionaryrevolutionary‹ in KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s sense (ThorneThorne, James Peter1965; LeiberLeiber, Justin1975; YerginYergin, Daniel1994 [1972]; SklarSklar, Robert1994 [1968]; SearleSearle, John R.1972; KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad1978 [1972]; NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.1986a; VidanovičVidanovič, Đorđe2006 and others). To our knowledge, Thorne (1965: 74) was the first to claim explicitly that »[…] a revolution of the kind Kuhn describes has recently taken place in linguistics – dating from the publication of ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s Syntactic Structures in 1957«. Searle – drawing public attention to Chomsky’s personality and the significance of his early work – states in his famous article, which appeared in The New York Review of Books, that Chomsky’s

revolution followed fairly closely the general pattern described in Thomas KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: the accepted model or ›paradigmparadigm‹ of linguistics was confronted, largely by ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s work, with increasing numbers of nagging counterexamples and recalcitrant datadata which the paradigm could not deal with. Eventually the counter-examples led Chomsky to break the old model altogether and to create a completely new one (SearleSearle, John R.1972: 16).

SearleSearle, John R.’s article deserves special attention.1 If a widely-acclaimed scholar such as Searle who, as is well-known, represents significantly different views from those of ChomskyChomsky, Noam, acknowledges Chomsky’s work as revolutionaryrevolutionary and does so in a journal that is so widely read, then the public may consider his judgment reliable and this will effectively shape the reception of his work.2

In order to demonstrate an important circumstance for developing possible solutions to (P), now we will focus on KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1978) among the numerous contributions which claim that Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures led to a new KuhnianKuhnianparadigmparadigm in linguistics. The reason why it is instructive to review Koerner’s approach is that later it went through numerous changes insofar as in several further papers Koerner considered other possibilities as well; therefore, his contribution to the discussions illustrates the plasticity and the vagueness of the term ›ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s revolution‹, as well as the complexity of the problems that it raises (see e.g. Koerner 2004: 2).

After analyzing the work of Schleicher, Saussure and ChomskyChomsky, Noam, KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1978) concludes that the conditions that enable us to talk about a KuhnianKuhnianparadigmparadigm are met in all three cases.3 Koerner’s thesis can be summarized as follows:


As a result of the ›climate of opinion‹climate of opinion, Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures triggered a scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific in linguistics in Kuhn’Kuhn, Thomas S.s sense and led to a new paradigm.paradigm4

KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad supports this claim with two considerations:

First, he argues that while ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s generative linguistics and Saussure’s structuralismstructuralism share common features, the theorytheory that was introduced in Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures has features which also differ from those of Saussure. KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad highlights three elements of Saussure’s view that are, in his opinion, to be found in Chomsky’s work: Saussure’s keen interest in mathematicsmathematical, his rationalism and his psychologism. At the same time, he also analyses the differences which, in his view, support the revolutionaryrevolutionary nature of Chomsky’s theory. He points out that in the works Chomsky published a few years after the appearance of Syntactic Structures, Chomsky emphasizes the dynamic nature of synchrony by referring to Humboldt and stressing the creativity of grammargrammar. Koerner believes that it is due to this dynamism that in a short timeframe Chomsky’s theory had made a great impact, not only on linguistics, but also on sociology and psychology, and this impact led to what KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. would describe as the redefinition of the discipline. In addition, Chomsky further developed Saussure’s categories – above all, later in AspectsAspects he reinterpreted the Saussurean term of ›langue‹ as ›competence‹. Finally, Chomsky adopted terms from symbolic logiclogic (following primarily Quine, Carnap and Reichenbach) and mathematics (Russell, Whitehead, Shannon and Weaver). Of course, these terms were not at Saussure’s disposal at the beginning of the 20th century.

KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad’s second argument is that although Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures could not remain unaffected by American structuralismstructuralism, it reflected the ›climate of opinionclimate of opinion‹ which was characteristic of the natural sciencesciencenaturals in the 1950s, but which American structuralism was not ready to embrace (Koerner 1978 [1972]: 42; for further discussion, see OteroOtero, Carlos P.1994). This climate of opinion had the following characteristics:5

as mentioned, the application of the formalformal methods of mathematicsmathematical and symbolic logiclogic to linguistic theorizing;

the primacy of theorytheory over datadata;

following the example of physicalphysics theories, the development of a deductivedeductivetheorytheory in linguistics, and the rejection of the methodologymethodology which is restricted to inductiveinductivedatadata collection and classification;

the simplicitysimplicity and the eleganceelegance of theorizing as methodological guiding principles;

the pursuit of scientificscientific explanations based on general laws; and

the rejection of the kind of empiricism represented in American structuralismstructuralism.

Accordingly, KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad claims that the reason why Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures was of a revolutionaryrevolutionary nature and resulted in a new paradigmparadigm is not that ChomskyChomsky, Noam created something »ex nihilo« (Koerner 1978: 44), but rather, that he understood and adapted the ›climate of opinionclimate of opinion‹ in a creative and genuine manner; that he was able to apply to linguistics the methodological model of physicsphysics, which was considered the peak of scientificscientific rigor; and that from all these he developed an unprecedented theoretical construct immediately taken up by its adherents.6

Thus KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1978 [1972]) provides the following solution to the problem (P):


The basic terms of the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics are ›scientificscientificrevolution‹revolutionscientificevolutionscientific and ›paradigm‹paradigm, supplemented by ›climate of opinion‹climate of opinion with respect to Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures, while its central hypothesis is (T1) and its framework is KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (1970)[1962]. and linguistic metatheorymetatheory

Keith AllanAllan, Keith’s (2003), (2007) contribution to the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics belongs to those which explicitly combine the historical and the philosophical perspective. He takes the KuhnianKuhnianrevolutionrevolutionKuhnianaryrevolutionary nature of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures for granted, and combines it with the analysis of the relationship between neo-Bloomfieldianneo-BloomfieldianBloomfieldianinductivisminductive and ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s deductivismdeductive. We reconstruct his main claim as follows:



Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures led to a paradigmparadigm shift in the KuhnianKuhnian sense, from an inductivistinductive paradigm to a hypothetico-deductivistdeductive one whereby the core of Chomsky’Chomsky, Noams revolution is the replacement of discovering grammars by their justification and evaluation.



Although a theorytheory of languagelanguage must be a hypothetico-deductivedeductive theory, it also needs inductiveinductivedatadata gathering.

As regards (T2)(a), AllanAllan, Keith (2003: 134ff., 2007: 269ff.) starts his train of thought by reflecting on how the classification of natural objects works. By relying on considerations based both on philosophical insights and the natural sciencesciencenaturals, he concludes that

reality can be perceived only through the constraints and distortions of the physicalphysics and cognitivecognitive structures of human beings,

classifications are based on group-internal conventions, and

scientificscientific theories work along the same lines.

Therefore, there are many possible classifications of natural phenomena and there are no rational grounds to claim that only one of these is the ›truth‹. The same applies to the study of languagelanguage. So, there must be criteria by which one can choose among the possible models of language.

In doing so, two macro-paradigmsparadigm have developed in the course of the historyhistory of linguistics, namely, phenomenological inductivisminductive and hypothetico-deductivismdeductive. In revealing the relationship between these two models, AllanAllan, Keith (2003: 538) uses the term ›paradigm‹ in the sense of KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.:

In the middle of the twentieth century there was a shift from a phenomenological inductivistinductiveparadigmparadigm in American linguistics to a hypothetico-deductivistdeductive paradigm; a shift known as ›the ChomskyChomsky, Noamrevolutionevolution‹ because it came about through Chomsky’s work. (AllanAllan, Keith2003: 538; 2007: 284)

As we know, inductivisminductive follows a bottom-up method of reasoning by inferring generalizations from the observation of individual datadata. BloomfieldianBloomfieldian and neo-Bloomfieldianneo-Bloomfieldian linguistics typically applied inductive reasoning.1 Bloomfieldian and neo-Bloomfieldian analyses assumed a hierarchy of levels on the basis of which they proceeded from phones to phonemesphoneme, from phonemes to morphs, from morphs to morphemesmorpheme, and from morphemes to syntactic units.

Hypothetico-deductivismdeductive is the inverse of the inductiveinductive model and follows a top-down reasoning. The latter postulates an abstract theorytheory consisting of general hypotheses and infers from the latter the properties of the individual phenomena it investigates. Thereby, Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures introduced a hypothetico-deductive model of languagelanguage. ChomskyChomsky, Noam rejected not only induction, but the discovery of grammars as practiced by Zellig S. HarrisHarris, Zellig S. and others as well, and replaced it by the justification and evaluation of grammars.2 It is the latter that AllanAllan, Keith (2003: 547; 2007: 286) calls »[t]he true revolution that Chomsky bequeathed«.

AllanAllan, Keith (2003: 547) also assumes that neo-Bloomfieldianneo-BloomfieldianBloomfieldian linguists resisted ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s early views, and this resistance is one of the indications of KuhnianKuhnianrevolutionrevolutionKuhnians.3 In this respect, Allan maintains the opposite of NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s (1986a), HarrisHarris, Randy Allen’ (1993a) and MurrayMurray, Stephen O.’s (1994) claim, according to which the young Chomsky was supported by the most prominent personalities of American linguistics (see Sections,,

With respect to (T2)(b), AllanAllan, Keith (2003: 558) emphasizes that although ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s early work rests on a hypothetico-deductivedeductive basis, it cannot dispense with inductiveinductivedatadata gathering. On the one hand, Chomsky and his followers assume that since languagelanguage universals are assumed to be biologicallybiology given, and are thus represented in the mind of all humans whatever their particular mother tongue is, it is sufficient to investigate one language in order to reveal these universals. On the other hand, »even this project requires an adequate data base from the one language that is the object of analysis; and that data base presupposes inductive investigation« (Allan 2003: 558). So, Allan concludes:

Linguistic theorizing needs both macro-paradigmsparadigm of linguistics in order to achieve its proper end. The bottom-up datadata-gathering and preliminary classification from phenomenological inductivisminductive, and the top-down hypothesis construction from hypothetico-deductivismdeductive cannot be related in neat temporal sequence: experience tells us that the linguistic researcher must expect to go to and fro between them, reviewing the data to intuit hypotheses, and then checking the hypotheses against the data using the evaluative procedures […] We are into a chicken and egg argument if we try to rigidly determine which is prior. The significant lesson is that the two paradigms are complementary, and both are essential to the advancement of linguistic science. They are as tightly integrated as the double helix of DNA(AllanAllan, Keith2003: 558; see also Allan 2007: 294–296).

In sum, AllanAllan, Keith’s solution to (P) is:


The basic terms of the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics with respect to Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures are ›scientificscientificrevolution‹revolutionscientificevolutionscientific, ›paradigm‹paradigm, ›inductivism‹inductive and ›hypothetico-deductivism‹deductive, its central thesis is (T2) and its framework is KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (1970) [1962]. kinds of revolution revolution

Ten HackenHacken, Pius (2007) introduces a new definition of ›research programresearchprogram‹ and ›revolution‹. His claim is:


Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures triggered an ›intellectual revolution‹revolutionintellectual because it led to a new ›research program‹researchprogram.

Ten HackenHacken, Pius’s starting point is the ›empirical cyclecyclic‹, which represents scientificscientific inquiry as a cyclical procedure. In this procedure, observations lead to empirical laws which, in turn, are the basis of a theorytheory; from the theory further laws are then predicted which feed back to guide the observations. However, as the author shows, the empirical cycle raises a series of problems which different approaches to the historyhistory and philosophy of sciencephilosophy of science have tried to solve. Among these, the most promising one is KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (1970) [1962]. Although ten Hacken admits that Kuhn’s paradigmsparadigm have both socialsocial and intellectual aspects, he suggests we replace ›paradigm‹ by ›research programresearchprogram‹, which focuses on the intellectual aspects and disregards the social ones: »A research programme is the set of assumptions, tacit or explicit, which make research along the lines of the empirical cycle possible« (ten Hacken 2007: 18). The author emphasizes that this term is different from LakatosLakatos, Imre’ (1970b) term ›scientific research program‹. He does not intend to develop a general approach to the philosophy of science and restricts the scope of the term ›research program‹ to generative linguistics.

There are consequences here for the methodological foundation on which his analyses are built, because research programresearchprograms in this sense include several empirical cycles. Since theories are – as mentioned above – elements of empirical cycles, this means that a research program may include more than one theorytheory. Within a research program, theories can be compared, because they share the standards that are valid for the whole research program. They are diachronically ordered or, from a synchronic point of view, tackle different issues. Therefore, the term ›research program‹ seems to provide a framework for capturing the unity and the diversity of generative linguistics, both diachronically and synchronically.

Ten HackenHacken, Pius introduces the term ›progressprogress in a research programresearchprogram‹ as well: a theorytheory T2 represents progress with respect to a theory T1 if the former covers more datadata and offers a deeper explanation of the data than the latter (ten Hacken 2007: 23).

Another crucial suggestion is a new definition of ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹: »A revolution is a change of research programresearchprogramme« (ten HackenHacken, Pius2007: 25). Since in this definition the definiens includes the term ›research program‹ in the above sense, ›scientific revolution‹ focuses on the intellectual aspects of scientific inquiry by eliminating the socialsocial ones from KuhnKuhn, Thomas S.’s original idea.

The result of ten HackenHacken, Pius’s analysis, which the application of his methodological framework yields, can be summarized in the form of two theses. The first is the author’s solution to the problem of the extent to which it is justified to assume the unity of Chomskyan linguistics from a historical point of view. In particular, in the literature its unity has been questioned because radical differences have been assumed between the Standard Theory, Government-BindingGovernment and Binding, Theory of Theory, and the Minimalist ProgramMinimalist Program. The author solves the problem by arguing that although these are different theories and there were important changes in their theoretical framework, they belong to the same research programresearchprogram and are not divided by revolutionaryrevolutionary breaks (ten Hacken 2007: 123). On the one hand, »[…] there can be no doubt […] that the research programme of Chomskyan linguistics was fully in place in 1960 at the latest« (ten Hacken 2007: 104) and that »[…] its development takes the form of a gradual specification rather than a substitution of older assumptions by new ones« (ten Hacken 2007: 40). For instance, ten Hacken quotes passages from ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s early writings which show that the native speaker’s competence has been one of Chomsky’s key issues from the late 1950s on.1 On the other hand, he does not see a dividing line between Government and Binding Theory and the Minimalist Program: »The entire model adopted in GB-theorytheory […] is still valid in the MP« (ten Hacken 2007: 121). The Minimalist Program addresses two additional topics which indicate that it differs from Government and Binding Theory, but which do not turn it into a new research program: the evolutionevolution of the languagelanguage faculty and its realization in the brain. Thus, the unity of Chomskyan linguistics is explained by the claim that right from the very beginning it has been a coherent research program, whereas its diversity is attributed to the fact that this research program consists of a chronologically ordered series of theories.2 So, the emphasis is on the coherence of the research program and the inconsistencies between Chomsky’s views are not touched on.

Ten HackenHacken, Pius’s second main claim is his answer to the question of whether the transition from Post-BloomfieldianBloomfieldianstructuralismstructuralism to generative transformationaltransformationgrammargrammar corresponds to a scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific. He discusses the basic issues of post-Bloomfieldian linguistics and then analyses both the latter’s continuities with and differences from early generative linguistics. He argues that Post-Bloomfieldian and Chomskyan linguistics are incommensurableincommensurable, and therefore they constitute two different research programresearchprograms. Applying the new definition of ›revolution‹ (i.e. ›revolution‹ as a change of research program), he reaches the following conclusion, which we have already anticipated in (T2):

The emergence of Chomskyan linguistics was a revolution because it is based on a different research programresearchprogramme from Post-BloomfieldianBloomfieldian linguistics and gradually replaced the latter.

The Chomskyan revolution can be seen as progressprogress because it replaced the emphasis on procedures applied to the set of datadata by a productive interaction of hypotheses and tests in the empirical cyclecyclic (ten HackenHacken, Pius2007: 179; emphasis added).

In addition to his historical analyses, ten HackenHacken, Pius also discusses the synchronic relations of Chomskyan linguistics to further trends which the literature often considers as belonging to the generative movement (SellsSells, Peter.1985, NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.1998). Ten Hacken’s considerations reveal both the common components and the differences between Chomskyan linguistics and four further theories: Lexical-Functional GrammarLexical-Functional Grammar (LFG), Generalized Phrase Structure GrammarGeneralized Phrase Structure Grammar (GPSG), Head-driven Phrase Structure GrammarHead-driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG), and JackendoffJackendoff, Ray’s linguistics. Showing that these four frameworks are different research programresearchprograms and that they must not be simply subsumed under what Newmeyer (1998: 7) calls ›the generativist orientation‹, is an interesting claim (see also Section 6.2.1).

In summary:3


The basic terms of the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics are ›research program‹researchprogram and ›scientificscientificrevolution‹revolutionscientificevolutionscientific in the intellectual sense with respect to Syntactic Structures;Syntactic Structures its central hypothesis is (T3) and its framework is the methodologymethodology of scientific inquiry as put forward in ten HackenHacken, Pius (2007). revolutionrevolutionLaudanian

That there is enormous uncertaintyuncertainty regarding the application of the KuhnianKuhnian term ›scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific‹ to linguistics is well illustrated not only by the change in KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad’s views already mentioned and to be discussed later in the present work, but also by the way NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J. revised his own views. Newmeyer has been in argument with Koerner for decades, and while the views of both of them have taken various turns, Newmeyer typically argues against Koerner’s opinions. The changes in Newmeyer’s views are especially interesting because many consider him the ›official historian‹ of generative linguistics, who effectively represents ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s interests (see e.g. MatthewsMatthews, Peter H.1993: 208, TomalinTomalin, Marcus2008: 13, 16; LakoffLakoff, Robin1989, MurrayMurray, Stephen O.1994, HarrisHarris, Randy Allen1993a etc.). Although Newmeyer used the term ›Chomsky’s revolution‹ in the first edition of his book Linguistic Theory in America, he did not clarify in what sense Chomsky’s appearance has in fact been revolutionaryrevolutionary (Newmeyer 1980). However, he did cite KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (1970)[1962] in the second edition (Newmeyer 1986a: 36–37). Subsequently, Newmeyer modified his approach in the paper in which he responded to Koerner (1983) and in which he rejected the term ›scientific revolution‹ in the Kuhnian sense (Newmeyer 1986b; for more on this, see also Section He argues for the following thesis:


Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures triggered a scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific in the sense of LaudanLaudan, Larry (1977) rather than in the KuhnianKuhnian (1970) sense and thus led to a new ›research tradition‹researchtradition.

NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s first argument supporting (T4) is that ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures has brought intellectual innovation into linguistics. When attempting to justify the intellectually revolutionaryrevolutionary nature of Syntactic Structures, Newmeyer partly relies on the same factors as KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1978) (see Section without, however, referring to the ›climate of opinionclimate of opinion‹. As further factors he mentions

the revolutionaryrevolutionary importance of the central role of syntax;

related to the central role of syntax, the interdisciplinary nature of the ›revolution‹, which has brought – first and foremost – psychology and philosophy within its scope; as well as

the successful adaptation and synthesis of the progressive elements of American structuralismstructuralism.

According to his second argument, Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures was revolutionaryrevolutionary from a sociologicalsocial perspective as well, but it is problematic that historiographers use conflicting criteria to separate revolutionary from non-revolutionary achievements and that »[p]aradoxiocally, however, the sociological transformationtransformation of the field has not been accompanied by a corresponding success on the part of generative grammarians in achieving institutional power« (NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.1986b: 2). Newmeyer admits that generative linguistics does not meet two necessary requirements of KuhnianKuhnianrevolutionrevolutionKuhnians. First, he approvingly quotes PercivalPercival, W. Keith (1976a: 289), according to whom generative linguistics has not been generally accepted within the discipline. He concludes »if KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. is correct, no(scientificscientific) revolutions have occurred in linguistics. […] the ›Chomskyan revolution‹, if there was one, was not a ›Kuhnian revolution‹.« (Newmeyer 1986b: 6, emphasis added). Second, the appearance of Syntactic Structures had not been preceded by a crisiscrisis:

The Chomskyan revolution failed to meet KuhnianKuhnian conditions in another respect. For KuhnKuhn, Thomas S. (74–5), a revolution is in part a response to ›crisiscrisis‹ – to a situation in which, in the ›typical‹ case, there is ›a profound failure in the normal problem-solving activity‹. Yet far from being in a state of crisis, post-BloomfieldianBloomfieldianstructuralismstructuralism in 1957 was enjoying a period of unprecedented optimism, in which it was believed that the fundamental questions of linguistic analysis had all been solved (see NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.1980: 1–3). It is rather puzzling, then, that so many commentators, generativist and non-generativist alike, have taken the Chomskyan revolution to exemplify Kuhn’s conception of a scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientific […] (Newmeyer 1986b: 7, footnote 6; emphasis added).1

Based on these factors, however, NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s conclusion is not that Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures did not trigger a revolution, but that it did, although in a non-KuhnianKuhnian sense.2 In answer to the question of what criteria scientificscientificrevolutionrevolutionscientifics are based on, he claims LaudanLaudan, Larry (1977: 137–138) provided the correct criterion. Laudan uses the term ›research traditionresearchtradition‹, which is analogous to the Kuhnian term ›paradigmparadigm‹. In Laudan’s view, it is not at the point at which the entire discipline – or at least a definitive part of it – accepts a certain research tradition that a scientific revolution takes place. Rather, a revolution takes place when a research tradition attracts enough attention to make scholars within the field take it seriously, in the sense that they either accept it or consider it a rival. With reference to HymesHymes, Dell (1964: 25), Newmeyer points out that transformationaltransformation generative grammargrammar had become the reference point of research within linguistics by the beginning of the 1960s, and thus it completely conforms to Laudan’s criterion. It has become an accepted routine to explicitly reject ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s theorytheory when alternative approaches are introduced. Therefore, if Laudan’s view is correct, then the Chomskyan revolution has taken place in linguistics in the Laudanian sense (Newmeyer, 1986b: 7–8):

We know that there was a Chomskyan revolution – but not because every linguist in the world was at one time, or is now, a generative grammarian. There was a Chomskyan revolution because anyone who hopes to win general acceptance for a new theorytheory of languagelanguage is obliged to show how the theory is better than ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s. Indeed, the perceived need to outdo Chomsky has led him to be the most attacked linguist in historyhistory(NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.1986b: 8).

NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s third argument is that the number of ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s followers radically increased and these followers gained significant positions at an increasing rate. He maintains, however, that contrary to appearances, Chomsky and his followers did not have real influence, since:3

there are numerous opportunities for students at American universities to continue their studies within non-generative linguistics;

generative linguists receive only a modest amount of funding;

the Linguistic Society of America was not controlled by the generativists.4

In sum, NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J. (1986b) offers the following solution to (P):


The basic terms of the historiographyhistoriography of generative linguistics with respect to Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures are ›scientificscientificrevolution‹revolutionscientific and ›research tradition‹researchtradition, its central hypothesis is (T4) and its framework is LaudanLaudan, Larry (1977).

2.1.2No revolution

KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1995: 8) maintains that as a result of PercivalPercival, W. Keith’s (1976a) devastating arguments, the debate about the applicability of KuhnianKuhnian terms to linguistics became pointless. Modifying his earlier account which we summarized in section, and opposing NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s (1986b) view, in his later publications Koerner himself questions the revolutionaryrevolutionary nature of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures in the Kuhnian or in any other sense. He argues for the following thesis (Koerner 1989: 124, 2004: 51):


The movement initiated by Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures was not a revolution in any sense; rather, it was the evolutionevolution of the American linguistics of the 1950s.

KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1989) argues for (T5) by scrutinizing those factors that, according to him, support his claim that generative linguistics could not have become as strong as it did by the 1960s if factors other than its intellectual innovations had not played a part in this process.

First, while making reference to MaherMaher, John Peter (1982), KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad points out that the impact of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures may have been influenced by fashion. However, he is not in full agreement with Maher, because in his opinion there were other relevant factors, too.

Second, the considerable amount of financial support which, in KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad’s view, ChomskyChomsky, Noam and his circle received, also contributed to the success of generative linguistics.1 Therefore, Koerner’s standpoint is the opposite of NewmeyerNewmeyer, Frederick J.’s (1986b) which we summarized in the previous section, claiming that Chomsky’s research projects only received a small amount of funding. Koerner (1989: 108) cites McCawleyMcCawley, James D.’s summary, according to which the peculiarities of American university administration favor situations where smaller groups increase the number of their followers through funding while their intellectual achievements do not justify this. Consequently, several universities in the 1950s and 1960s launched linguistics programs that could not have been funded solely on the basis of their intellectual credibility. Thus, according to Koerner, owing to the propaganda activity carried out by Chomsky and his adherents, administrative leaders – without expertise in linguistics – considered generative grammargrammar to be a modern science, one that was to be followed, and thus its representatives won university positions and research funds much more easily than those of other linguistic approaches. McCawley’s statement leads Koerner to conclude that the rapid growth of Chomsky’s influence could not be attributed exclusively to the content of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures, but »it may have had something to do with a fad«, too (Koerner 1989: 109, 2002: 161, 12).

Third, KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad (1989: 111) stresses that the representation of ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s initiative as a revolution is basically not rooted in the innovative nature of the content of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures but is of an ideologicalideology nature, stemming from the strong belief in its revolutionaryrevolutionary impact. This claim is in agreement with MurrayMurray, Stephen O. (1994); see also Section

Fourth, according to KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad, the revolutionaryrevolutionaryrhetoricrhetoric and the intensive propaganda activity that highlighted the radical, innovative nature of generative grammargrammar also played a role in the circumstance that ChomskyChomsky, Noam’s early work became known as revolutionary. This propaganda was related to the constant, aggressive, rude, and often ad hominemad hominem attacks against both the arguments and the representatives of neo-Bloomfieldian structuralismstructuralism. Koerner presents compelling examples of this (1989: 120–121). In this respect, Koerner seems to have similar views to those of MurrayMurray, Stephen O. (1994), HarrisHarris, Randy Allen (1993a, 1993b) and LakoffLakoff, Robin (1989), according to whom there was no scientific revolution in linguistics in the 1950s and 1960s. Rather, it was the application of revolutionary rhetoric that provided a false image of the impact of generative linguistics on the historyhistory of linguistics as a whole.2

Fifth, since the claims summarized in the previous paragraphs suggest that the above mentioned circumstances surrounding the appearance of Syntactic StructuresSyntactic Structures – fashion, funding, ideologyideology, propaganda and fierce attacks – may have made it seemrevolutionaryrevolutionary, KoernerKoerner, E.F. Konrad examines to what extent the views elaborated in the book were innovative in comparison to the findings of neo-Bloomfieldian structuralismstructuralism. He enumerates and analyses the factors which he claims prove that the appearance of Syntactic Structures – contrary to the propaganda surrounding it – did not represent a radical break with the latter. Rather, it was deeply rooted in the findings, methods and perspective of neo-Bloomfieldian structuralism, with special regard to the impact HockettHockett, Charles F. and Zellig S. HarrisHarris, Zellig S. directly had on the linguistic theorytheory and methodologymethodology put forward in Syntactic Structures.3 Therefore, transformationaltransformation generative grammargrammar »is basically post-Saussurean structuralism« (Koerner 1989: