Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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I 140f
Definition Acceptability/Grammar/Lyons: an utterance is acceptable if it was or could be used by a native speaker in a particular context and is or would be perceived by other native speakers as belonging to that language.
Linguistics: one of its tasks is to explain which sentences are acceptable within the framework of a general theory of language structure.
I 146
Acceptability/Level: at a lower level: here phonology is responsible for the acceptability of statements.
Grammar: replaces phonology at a higher level.
I 151
Grammatical/meaningful/(sensible)/Lyons: we can now rewrite this distinction provisionally:
Acceptable: e.g.
1. The dog bites the man.
2. The chimpanzee eats the banana.
3. The wind opens the door.
4. The Linguist recognizes the fact.
5. The meaning determines the structure.
6. The woman undresses the child.
7. The wind frightens the child.
8. The child drinks the milk.
9. The dog sees the meat.
Tradition: would describe all as subject-predicate-structure and say that the subject is a syntagma (unit of several words consisting of articles and nouns).
Definition Syntagma/Linguistics: Unit of several words: Example predicate: = verb + object.
I 152
Word classes:
N = {dog, man, chimpanzee, fact...}
V = {bites, eats, opens, recognizes…
T: article
Grammatical Rule:

1: T + N + V + T + N

Notation: : stands for “sentence”.
Subscript: shows that the rule only applies to one class of sentences.
Grammatical rule: not only requires a lexicon that classifies all words of the language grammatically as N, V, or T, but also one or more rules for lexical substitution. First of all, we assume that such rules exist.
I 153
Subclassification/Grammar/Lyons: now we can allow finer rules by dividing the classes finer ((s) to exclude "The banana bites the child"):
Na = {dog, man, chimpanzee, linguist, child, wind...
Nb = {banana, door, milk, meat…}
Nc = [{ fact, meaning, structure…
Vd = {eats, bites, frightens, undresses, sees,…
Ve = { recognizes, determines, sees, eats…
Vf = {determines…}
1. How we came to the decisions of the classification is irrelevant.
I 154
Instead, it is about which classification allows the grammarian to set up a number of rules that cover the largest number of acceptable and the smallest number of unacceptable sentences.
2. The new subclasses can be considered as if there were no longer any relationship between them.
3. Some words are assigned to several classes. Example determines, sees.
New: we then replace the original rule with several new rules (which define very different sentence types):
a) 1: T + Na + Vd + T + Nas (e.g. The dog bites the man)
b)  2: T + Na + Vd + T + Nb (e.g. The chimpanzee eats the banana)
c)  3: T + Na + Ve + T + Nc (e.g. The linguist recognizes the fact)
d)  4: T + Nc + Vf + T + Nc (e.g. The meaning determines the structure)
I 155
N.B.: the new rules redefine the distinction between grammatical and ungrammatical English sentences. "The banana bites the meaning" is no longer possible, according to the simple rule T + N + V + T + N it would not have been excluded. However, there are still inadmissible statements that cannot be ruled out.
Formal Grammar/Lyons: this is all about acceptability according to rules.
Lexicon/Grammar/Lyons: the distinction between lexical and grammatical elements can still be neglected here.
Grammaticality/Lyons: the linguist will draw the limit at an arbitrary place in his description.
Two main factors:
1. law of "decreasing profitability":
I 156
It should be avoided that one needs too many rules, which in the end only capture very few words.
2. Because of the unlimited number of sentences, it is not possible to decide for each sentence whether it is acceptable or not. This leads to an "indeterminacy of grammar".
Problem: (see I 389 below): the design of sentences of a certain type within a certain theoretical framework can make the design of sentences of another type within the same theoretical framework very difficult. That is still unsolved today (1968).
Acceptability/Grammar/Lyons: can only be determined in relation to one rule system. Different grammars assess the grammaticality of certain sentences differently.

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

John Lyons
Semantics Cambridge, MA 1977

Lyons I
John Lyons
Introduction to Theoretical Lingustics, Cambridge/MA 1968
German Edition:
Einführung in die moderne Linguistik München 1995

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-07-04
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