By T. Givón
This publication is Prof. Givón's long-awaited serious exam of the basic theoretical and methodological underpinnings of the functionalist method of grammar. It demanding situations functionalists to take their very own medication and determine non-circular empirical definitions of either 'function' and 'structure'. Ideological hand-waving, although fervent and right-thinking, is seldom an enough alternative for analytic rigor and empirical accountability. If the reductionist extremism of a number of the structuralist colleges is to be challenged on sturdy highbrow grounds, the problem can't itself be both severe in its reductionism.
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Additional info for Functionalism and Grammar
The scope of both the perfect and durative aspects in (11) applies to the entire chain, as does the equi-subject (SS) condition. But the continuative medial and final clauses (11b,c,d,e) are largely unmarked for these aspect, with the relevant auxiliaries appearing only once in (11a). And since subject agreement is marked on the auxiliary in English, these SS-medial clauses also dispense with subject agreement. The only fully-finite clause in (11) is the chain-initial (11a), appearing at the point of maximal disruption of coherence.
Voice and topicalization f. focusing and relativization g. speech acts h. clausal conjunction and subordination But distinctness again does not mean lack of overlap or interaction between clause-level semantics and discourse pragmatics. Case-marking systems is one major arena where fuzzy boundaries between propositional semantics and discourse pragmatics can be observed. Thus, one major case-marking type — active-stative — is oriented primarily toward semantic roles. Another — nominative-accusative — is oriented predominantly toward the pragmatics of topicality.
But in order for the domain "relative clause" to be defined in a nonarbitrary, non-circular way, it could not be defined in terms of structure. Rather, it must be given an independent functional definition. The procedure to be adopted in the study of grammatical universals and grammatical typology is roughly this: (12) A functionalist approach to grammatical typology: a. Define by independent criteria all grammar-coded functional domains. b. Determine then what structure in each language codes each functional domain.