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Referent Systems and Relational Grammar ∗

Referent Systems and Relational Grammar ∗

Referent Systems and Relational Grammar

Referent Systems and Relational Grammar ∗Marcus KrachtII. Mathematisches Institut, Arnimallee 3, D – 14195 Berlin, Germany, Email:kracht@math.fu-berlin.deAbstract. Relational Grammar (RG) was introduced in the 70’s as a theory of grammatical relationsand relation change, for example, passivization, dative shift, and raising. Furthermore,the idea behind RG was that transformations as originally designed in generative grammarwere unable to capture the common kernel of, e. g., passivization across languages. The researchconducted within RG has uncovered a wealth of phenomena for which it could producea satisfactory analysis. Although the theory of Government and Binding has answered someof the complaints, still it left many phenomena unaccounted for. Referent Systems (RSs) havebeen introduced by Kees Vermeulen in (Vermeulen, 1995) to overcome certain weaknesses ofDynamic Semantics. Their usefulness has not yet been realized in semantical theory. We shallshow here that their significance cannot be overestimated. Namely, we will show in this paperthat there exists a fundamental affinity to RG. Both handle the relation between an argumentand a functor by means of a shared relational sign, which is unique for each argument. Thisassignment can be changed. What is interesting is that the notion of a chômeur, which iscentral to RG, finds a natural treatment in RSs. This coincidence is in our view not accidentalbut reveals some fundamental properties of the human language faculty.Keywords: Relational Grammar, referent systems, dynamic semantics, grammatical roles1. IntroductionThe aim of this paper is twofold: (1) to formalize Relational Grammar bymeans of referent systems and (2) to show that both frameworks share basicintuitions about the handling of arguments in natural language that are notfound elsewhere in syntactic and/or semantic theory. We hope that this provesthe significance of these approaches in their respective areas, and that theywill therefore receive greater attention than they have enjoyed up to now.Moreover, we hope to have shown that there is a fairly natural semantics togo with Relational Grammar, in case anyone had doubts about that.Relational Grammar (RG, for short) is a theory of grammatical relations.It deals with questions of argument selection and relational change, such aspassivization, dative shift, raising, to name just a few. The development of RGcan be traced back to the mid seventies. It became apparent at this time thatthe then current theory of transformational grammar specified the structuralchanges brought about by operations of relational change in too concrete a∗ This paper has been presented in Schloß Dagstuhl on a workshop on Dynamic Semantics.I wish to thank the participants, especially Jan van Eijck and Frank Veltman for theirconstructive remarks. Thanks also to David Perlmutter for useful discussions on RG. Finally,I wish to thank an anonymous referee for carefully reading this paper.c○ 2008 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.relation.tex; 8/02/2008; 11:11; p.1

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