The Case for Abstract Grammar: Formal Grammar and Linguistic Communication

by Jeanette K. Gundel and Hooi Ling Soh
Department of Linguistics/Center for Cognitive Sciences
University of Minnesota, United States of America

Introduction

A question that is sometimes raised about formal grammar is whether it is relevant for understanding our ability to use language to communicate. We believe that it is, and that part of the controversy surrounding this question is due to (i) a misunderstanding of the goal of the study of formal grammar; (ii) different ways in which the term “language” is used and, relatedly, to different views about the relation between language and communication; and (iii) an unwarranted conclusion that if linguistic communication cannot be explained by formal grammar alone, then formal grammar cannot be relevant for understanding linguistic communication.


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One thought on “The Case for Abstract Grammar: Formal Grammar and Linguistic Communication

  1. I have to agree that a small change in the sentence that does not look proper can make a huge difference in the understanding of the sentence. Understanding (i.e. decoding) lies on the receiver’s part, but the sender should confirm that the message they encode (i.e. send) does not have an alternate meaning. Nice research you have done.

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