Re: Chapter 7: Sentences

From: Harnad, Stevan (
Date: Fri May 09 1997 - 20:22:56 BST

> From: Cherry, Sandra <>
> P. 189 of Green when discussing the properties of the language faculty -
> talks about interfaces - this I take to mean "connection between any 2
> functioning units, including organisms" (Penguin dictionary of
> Psychology) Is this just saying that our language component of our
> mind is divided up into 2 further subsections - Logical form (LF) and
> Phonetic form (PF) each performing a different function?

It's easier to start with phonological form: That's the way your
language faculty turns language into speech: speech is a sequence of
phonemes that you can pronounce and hear. Language is more abstract.

Supposing you say the words "the cat is on the mat." These are the
phonological form of something more abstract, namely, the string of
symbols that means that the cat is on the mat.

So "the cat is on the mat" is not only a string of sounds, it is also a
proposition. Depending on the language you speak, and depending
especially on its grammar (its own customised version of Universal
Grammar), the logical form of "the cat is on the mat" will be turned
into the phonological form of "the cat is on the mat" as dictated by the
grammar, and then that will be turned into speech. That is the PF
interface, turning PF into speech.

On the other end, there is the logical form of the proposition, which is
then presumably turned into thought. Universal Grammar guides the
transformation from logical form to phonological form and vice versa.
But the organs of speech (mouth, throat etc.) are on the other side
of this interface, just as the thinking part of the brain is on the
other side of the logical form interface.

Don't worry too much about the details here: They can come in a full
course on the language faculty.

> From Harnad's notes I understand that LF is when both the
> person saying and receiving needs to understand the meaning
> - its cold in here - meaning can you shut the window.

Logical form only occurs in your head; strictly speaking, it does not
yet mean anything. It merely has a FORM that corresponds to the meaning.
The idea is that these are different (and therefore independent)
"modules". The meaning is not in the language module, any more than
sound or mouth movement is. The language module "interfaces" with the
speech organs on one end and the "thinking" organs on the other.

Pragmatics is not part of the language faculty. Logical form
is closely related to context-free sentence meaning, whereas
pragmatics concerns context-dependent speaker meaning. Strictly
speaking, not even sentence meaning is part of the language faculty;
rather, meaning is something the "thinking" faculty would add to the
"logical form that it gets from the language faculty.

> And is PF the section that sends signals to our motor
> systems telling them that we need to talk? I.E. the tongue,
> jaw, lips, etc.

Not sending signals, exactly, but some sort of interaction
or "interfacing."

> The next question: is LF the same as Pragmatics? Asking
> someone to do something in a round about way.

No, Logical Form is close to "sentence meaning," whereas
pragmatics depends on context and "speaker meaning" and intention.

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