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RecursionA Computational Investigation into the Representation and Processing of Language$
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David J. Lobina

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198785156

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198785156.001.0001

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Recursive generation in language

Recursive generation in language

(p.39) 2 Recursive generation in language

David J. Lobina

Oxford University Press

The introduction of recursion into linguistics was the result of applying some of the results of mathematical logic to the study of language. In particular, recursion was introduced in the 1950s as a general property of the mechanical procedure underlying the grammar, in order to account for language’s discrete infinity and expressive power—in the 1950s, this mechanical procedure was a production system, whereas more recently, of course, it is the set-operator merge. Unfortunately, the recent literature has confused the general recursive property of a grammar with specific instances of (recursive) rules/operations within a grammar; more worryingly still, there has been a general conflation of these recursive rules with some of the self-embedded structures these rules can generate, adding to the confusion. The conflation is manifold but always fallacious. Moreover, language manifests a much more generally recursive structure than is usually recognized: bundles of the universal (Specifier)-Head-Complement(s) geometry.

Keywords:   recursion, mathematical logic, grammar, discrete infinity, expressive power, conflation

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