The Linguistics Delusion - Geoffrey Sampson

The Linguistics Delusion - Geoffrey Sampson

3. Grammaticality Meets Real-life Usage

The Linguistics Delusion - Geoffrey Sampson

Geoffrey Sampson [+-]
Sussex University, Professor Emeritus
Geoffrey Sampson is Professor Emeritus at Sussex University and has taught linguistics at the LSE, Lancaster and Leeds Universities. His recent books include Love Songs of Early China (2006), Electronic Business (2nd edn 2008) and Writing Systems (2nd edn 2015).


Linguists of all schools believe in some kind of contrast, in any language, between “grammatical” sequences of words and ill-formed sequences, sometimes marking the latter with stars. This division is often conceptualized in ways that are more sophisticated than a simple black/white contrast, but few linguists question the fundamental concept of grammaticality. However, grammaticality is a myth. There are no such things as “starred sentences”. This is not a mere aprioristic claim, it rests on hard evidence. I have been putting this point of view forward for many years now; my previous versions of the argument have sometimes been criticized as based on small quantities of data which I compiled myself, raising a suspicion of circularity, and they related only to English, arguably an untypical case. So here I look at a larger, non-English data-set compiled by people with whom I have no connexion. The results are very comparable to those which emerged from my English data.

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Sampson, Geoffrey. 3. Grammaticality Meets Real-life Usage. The Linguistics Delusion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 35-55 Sep 2017. ISBN 9781781795781. Date accessed: 14 Nov 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.32131. Sep 2017

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