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Levels of Linguistic Adequacy

Descriptive Grammar The emergence of descriptive grammar studies goes back to early 1930s. Instead of studying a grammar of a language in terms of prescriptive analysis, linguists revolutionized the study of grammar in descriptive aspects. A grammar is a model of the grammatical competence of the native speaker of a language. It comprises a finite system of rules which generate the infinite set of well-formed sentence-structures in the language. (Radford, 27) Therefore, in this line of research, a linguist is not to evaluate a particular grammar in term of wrong, right, weak or strong; on the contrary, strive to formulate a finite system of rules that describe syntactic, semantic and phonological relations. Levels of Adequacy According to Chomsky in Radford, there are certain criteria that account for the levels of adequacy in grammars. Observationally adequacy refers to a grammar which produces correct explanations for the raw linguistic data and provides the rules and principles to distinguish the series of words that are sentences of a language from those that are not sentences of the language involved. In other words, if a grammar specifies which sentences are well-formed with regard to syntactical, semantic, morphological and phonological rules, it has the level of observational adequacy. (Radford, 28) The second level of adequacy is descriptive adequacy which refers to producing correct explanations for the linguistic competence of the speakers and listeners of a certain language. In other words, it is a theory that accounts for both corpora and native speaker judgments about well-formedness is called a descriptively adequate grammar. (Carnie, 24) Encompassing the aspects of the observational adequacy, a descriptive adequate grammar also provides us with a systematic account of the native speakers intuitions as to i.e. why a certain sentence is illformed or unacceptable.

The highest level is the explanatory adequacy, in which case the grammar has a particular theory of adequate language on which three rules have been imposed. The first rule is universality, which means it applies to all natural languages. The second rule is that the theory should be maximally constrained; in other words, the theory is not to be appropriate for the description of any other communication system; only then the theory would lead to characterization of the essence of human language. (Radford, 29) The third condition is the psychological reality, that accounts for how the mind produces and processes language. (Radford, 29) Andrew Carnie (2006) provides examples to the levels of adequacy with reference to works of different linguists and expects the readers to find out which examples meet the correct level. The first one is: Juan Martnez has been working with speakers of Chicano English in the barrios of Los Angeles. He has been looking both at corpora (rap music, recorded snatches of speech) and working with adult native speakers.(Carnie, 2006) I tend to think that the adequacy in Martinezs work here is descriptive adequacy since it studies the syntactic, semantic, morphological and phonological well-formed sentences (therefore opting out the ill-formed ones.) However, it also deals with the speaker and listeners intuitions about the structure of the language (i.e. inspecting different versions of communicative structures, speeches etc.) Fredrike Schwarz has been looking at the structure of sentences in eleventh-century Welsh poems. She has been working at the national archives of Wales in Cardiff. (Carnie, 2006) My opinion is this study belongs to the observational adequate grammar. Hence, it accounts for the structures of semantic, syntactic principles of a language spoken or written at a given time (in this case, eleventh century). The last instance is: Boris Dimitrov has been working with adults and corpora on the formation of questions in Rhodopian Bulgarian. He is also conducting a longitudinal study of some two-year-old children learning the language to test his hypotheses. (Carnie, 2006) This instance might seem more obvious than the previous two, since it involves the learning language process of children. Encompassing the observational and descriptive adequacy, the explanatory adequacy refers to a theory of language that must, explain why grammars contain certain types of technical devices and not others (universality); explain what exactly are the defining characteristics of human languages that differentiate them from other communication systems

(maximally constrained); explain how it is that human beings come to acquire their native languages (psychological reality). (Radford, 30) Therefore the last instance is explanatory adequacy.

Radford, Andrew (1988) Transformational Grammar. A First Course. Cambridge, CUP. Carnie, Andrew (1996) Syntax: A Generative Introduction (2nd edition) (Introducing Linguistics Series), Wiley-Blackwell in