Functionalism in Syntax

Mary A KATO About the author

This article shows that the term "functionalism", very often understood as a single or uniform approach in linguistics, has to be understood in its different perspectives. I start by presenting an opposing conception similar to the I-language vs E-language in Chomsky (1986). As in the latter conception , language can be understood as an abstract model of a mind internal mechanism responsible for language production and perception or, as in the former one, it can be the description of the external use of language. Also like with formalists , there are functionalists who look for cross-linguistic variation (and universals of language use) and functionalists who look for language internal variation. It is also shown that functionalists can differ in the extent to which social variables are considered in the explanation of linguistic form.

functionalism; production and perception models; universals of language use; language internal variation; functions of language


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