The bane of syntax students’ lives pretty much the world over, that bastion of generativism, X-bar theory, has got itself all shook up after the recent discovery of a hitherto unknown ancient Greek tradition of linguistic thought in which the central insights of X-bar theory can be found. While not known for their configurational analyses of the abstract combinatorial properties of formatives, recently discovered papyri from around 200 BCE seem to suggest that Greek thought of late antiquity had produced what it called Ξ-bar theory (that’s Xi-bar (pronounced [ksaɪ]) if your alphabetical know-
If you’re reading this journal, you’ll be more familiar than an A-movement-
Whether you loved it or hated it, you sure had to study it. But what you never knew until now was that this was all apparently done and dusted over two millennia ago: documents have come to light that make pretty much the same arguments as to cross-
In several sheets of highly dense prose, Nomavramacles and Rayjakendocrates make the same claims as Generativism as to the cross-
Of course, it could still be said that 20th/21st century X-bar theory has added something to the mix: by extending the machinery into so-called functional categories, an observation not made in Greek texts, contemporary linguistic theory may be taking things forward somewhat. However, given that in a recent survey only 1.7% of syntacticians responded to the question ‘What are your thoughts on X-bar theory, specifically its extension functional categories?’ with an earnest ‘It’s made a significant difference to our understanding of the properties of languages’ and over 74% simply chuckled/
It is not known how it came to be that contemporary X-bar theory mirrors the work of the ancients so clearly. Of course, things can be rediscovered at different times: Leibniz and the other one independently came across calculus and Fred and Barney both discovered fire independently of each other.2 Most commentators however are of the view that it remains an embarrassment for one of the central contributions of post-
1 We use the term ‘achieve’ loosely.
2 However, Wilma and Betty had been collaborating on experiments with combustible materials for some years previously; fragments of legal documents from around 25,000 BCE suggest that the two women sued their respective husbands for intellectual copyright theft.
|Ode to -e
|The Linguistics Department Γυμνάσιον
|SpecGram Vol CLXXXIX, No 3 Contents|