LINGUIST List 5.1361

Sun 27 Nov 1994

Disc: Native speaker intuitions

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  1. , Re: 5.1344 Native speaker intuitions

Message 1: Re: 5.1344 Native speaker intuitions

Date: Thu, 24 Nov 1994 09:39:45 Re: 5.1344 Native speaker intuitions
From: <>
Subject: Re: 5.1344 Native speaker intuitions

The discussion on native speaker intuitions has been extremely
interesting, but I worry that my brief intervention may have
muddied the waters. I take it that there are a number of
separable issues. The first is the extent to which a native
speaker is likely to judge a lexical string as grammatical
or ungrammatical per se. The second is concerned with the
relationships between syntax and interpretation (although even
here the distinction may not be entirely clear cut). Most English
speakers would probably judge

 child teacher the the asked leave to room the

as both ungrammatical and uninterpretable. However, my couple
of sentences (which were from a source that I no longer recall
 - apologies!) raise slightly different issues. If it is
POSSIBLE to interpret the following:

 1. The child asked the teacher to leave the room
 2. The teacher asked the child to leave the room

as having the same consequences (i.e. that it was the child who
left the room) then it seems to me that the relationship between
grammatical representation and interpretation is inherently unstable.
Just because some native speakers solve the problem in one way
should not override the empirical fact that other native speakers
solve it in another way.

If we take the strings:

 3. I would've done it.

and the emphatice assertion:

 4. I really would HAVE/OF (/ov/)

it would seem that, on the evidence of (some) British speakers'
phonologies, HAVE=OF. i.e., they treat OF as a VERB in some

As prescriptivists, we can tell them that they are wrong, and explain
(by analogy?) why they are wrong. As descripivists, though, it seems
that we have to take such native-speaker intuitions at their face value.
In the latter case, we are left with a conundrum and one that seems to
me particularly relevant to the problem of second language teaching:
WHO IS A NATIVE SPEAKER? For what it is worth, I have tried to explore
these issues more detail in 'Language and the Linguists',
 _social semiotics_ (1993),3,2, 161-181

Tony Bex
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