Lexical Functional Syntax
Joan Bresnan, 2001

The Colonizers Speak in Syntax?
Bresnan makes the
statement that it must be mere chance that the colonizing societies (and not coincidently, those having developed sciences, including linguistics) happen to speak languages which make heavy use of syntactic structure rather than morphological structure. It seems completely plausible to me that there could be some form of selection involved; perhaps that when a great deal of interaction occurs between languages having differing positions on the syntax/mophology scale, those languages tend to evolve toward the use of syntactic forms. Conversely, it could be that isolated languages or language groups tend toward morphological patterning.

In any case, it is clear that there has not been time for a genetic change related to differing linguistic forms and, furthermore, all evidence indicates that a child from a culture with either pattern can equally well learn the languages of the opposite pattern. In which case, Bresnan's point remains valid and it must be the case that the innate propensities for language are capable of generalizations beyond the particulars of syntax vs. morphology.


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