In my Syntax II course yesterday, I discussed the motivations for the move to Minimalism. Namely, why would we want to abandon an effective framework like GB for a model with initially less empirical coverage. The obvious answer is that why GB is great for explaining the data, we have a greater challenge connecting it to the biological realities associated with linguistics. This got me thinking about Minimalism 400-lb gorilla-- Cartography.
As some of you well know, I have serious reservations about the Cartographic program.
My problems with Cartography are as such:
- In a minimalist approach we must assume that the language specific mental faculties (and by extension the genetic endowment) must be, well, minimal.
- Cartography needs to assume a richly specified and language specific mental faculty (at least in my opinion).
However, the results of a lot of Cartographic work have been highly effective. More troubling, I'm not certain what the possible alternatives could be. (See the excellent volume edited by van Craenenbroeck Alternatives to Cartography which ends with the foreboding paper by Williams "There is no alternative to Cartography".
Though that title is somewhat misleading, and Williams paper does allow room for alternatives, I worry that that title might yet be right.
In my dissertation, I sketched a difference between what I termed "strong Cartography" and "weak Cartography". However, I've never been particularly statisfied with that idea. Namely, if we allow a "weak" version, then there would not seem to be much of a logical reason of excluding a strong version.
Even analyses that argue against aspects of the Cartographic project need to at least partial Cartography. This is certainly true for me. And also illustrated by the Ritter and Wiltschko (2009, from the aforementioned van Craenenbroeck volume) "...we assume that UG provides a template of fixed functional positions".
So how do we proceed?
My hope that is at least in part Cartographic facts can be explained outside of the narrow syntax. Let's take the C over v over V case. I think this is one of the clearest cases of an empirically robust Cartographic fact. My speculation (and hope) that this organization could be tied to a more general system not specific to language (i.e., our conceptual organization). I am certainly not alone here. If this were anything but a blog post, I'd include a more compelling literature review.
I know some of you work specifically withing Cartographic perspectives. What are your thoughts on this?