Linguistic form between system and use


  • Olga Kunst Gnamuš



Linguistic form between system and use


"The goal of theoretical linguistics is the discovery of facts that are crucial for determing the underlying structure of language and hidden abstract principles and laws" (Shaumyan, 1984: 239). There is a twofold relationship between facts and theory: on the one hand, a theory makes it possible to identify facts and to classify them into categories, but on the other hand there exist so-called symptomatic facts, which cannot be incorporated within the framework of an obsolete scientific para­ digm, but have a constructive value with respect to a new theory, since in the ways in which these facts appear they disclose abstract principles and laws which would ot­ herwise have remained hidden. In the development of science, the discovery of such facts is of exceptional importance. A new scientific paradigm originates from the contradiction which occurs between the discovery of a symptomatic fact (the latter presenting a previously hidden aspect of the phenomenon concerned) and the use of the explanatory methods of the old paradigm. The paradox lies in the fact that the symptomatic fact is opposed to these very, obsolete explanatory procedures, and, by its existence, reduces their validity. For this reason, such symptomatic facts are usually  reduced  to  "an  execption  which proves  the  rule".  Thus,  for  instance, Chomsky discovered the existence of deep structure by studying pairs of sentences such as John is easy to please, John is eager to please. But he described them in terms of the surface structure. It was only later that Fillmore (1968) introduced the basic concepts of deep-structure description by proving that, through the role of the surface structure subject, various semantic roles can be expressed, such as agent, pa­ tient and instrument.


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How to Cite

Kunst Gnamuš, O. (1987). Linguistic form between system and use. Linguistica, 27(1), 11–21.