By Charles Perrault

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4. *You ’re sorry you ’re late. Language which is apparently grammatically possible is not, inpractice, lexically sanctioned. Again we are reminded of the arbitrariness of all lexical items. These bizarre sentences are something of an embarrassment to those who maintain the importance of the generative power of grammar, for, while grammar can generate many original and useful utterances, it can also over­ generalise and appear to sanction language which is not accepted by the speech community. A modified idea of idiom To most people an idiom is a picturesque expression which is marginal to natural language use; nothing could be further from the truth.

We know it is easier to remember patterns than random lists, tunes rather than arbitrary sequences of notes. We know we can recognise our own language being spoken even when we cannot hear a single word of what is being said, so it must be the sound patterns which we recognise. Most importantly, we recognise wholes to be broken down, not parts to be built up.

2a. *It’s not OK, so please bother to ring me. 2b. *77/ bother to ring. 3. Don’t worry. It won’t take long, but not *It won’t take (quite) a long time. 4. *You ’re sorry you ’re late. Language which is apparently grammatically possible is not, inpractice, lexically sanctioned. Again we are reminded of the arbitrariness of all lexical items. These bizarre sentences are something of an embarrassment to those who maintain the importance of the generative power of grammar, for, while grammar can generate many original and useful utterances, it can also over­ generalise and appear to sanction language which is not accepted by the speech community.

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Cinderella (Золушка) by Charles Perrault


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