Plans, Affordances, And Combinatory Grammar

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Abstract

The idea that natural language grammar and planned action are related systems has been implicit in psychological theory for more than a century. However, formal theories in the two domains have tended to look very different. This article argues that both faculties share the formal character of applicative systems based on operations corresponding to the same two combinatory operations, namely functional composition and type-raising. Viewing them in this way suggests simpler and more cognitively plausible accounts of both systems, and suggests that the language faculty evolved in the species and develops in children by a rather direct adaptation of a moreprimitive apparatus for planning purposive action in the world by composing affordances of objects or tools. The knowledge representation that underlies such planning is also reflected in the natural language semantics of tense, mood, and aspect, which the paper begins by arguing provides the key to understanding both systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-753
Number of pages31
JournalLinguistics and Philosophy
Volume25
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002

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