James D. McCawley

E-mail: jmccawle@midway.uchicago.edu

1. Syntax (of English, and when native speakers are available to be exploited, also Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and Hindi), within the revisionist version of transformational grammar that I operate in (and to which I refuse to give a name - if you feel you need a name for it, go and make one up), which exploits what I regard as the fruitful ideas of transformational grammar (constituency, multiple syntactic strata, the cyclic principle) and chucks out what I regard as counterproductive ideas (the metaphor of a "base" structure, the idea of categories and structures as remaining constant throughout derivations, the fetish for keeping syntax and semantics separate). For detailed exemplification of this approach to syntax, see my The Syntactic Phenomena of English (University of Chicago Press, 1988; 2nd edition expected to appear in late 1997).

2. Semantics/logic/pragmatics (it's impossible to talk in any detail about any of these three fields without getting into the other two, so I don't even try to keep them separate). I teach courses on logic from a linguist's point of view, taking a broad view of the subject matter of logic (logic has suffered from 23 centuries of myopia, which I try to make up for) and giving full weight to linguistic considerations in revising (or replacing) existing systems of logic to maximize their contact with natural language syntax and linguistic semantics. (See my book, Everything that Linguists Have Always Wanted to Know About Logic (but were Ashamed to Ask) , University of Chicago Press, 2nd edition, 1993). I also from time to time teach courses in lexical semantics, tense and aspect, and speech acts (with Erving Goffman sharing top billing with J. L. Austin).

3. Linguistics and the philosophy of science. Having taught a course on this subject every 3 years or so since the mid 70s, I am now writing a book entitled A Linguist's Guide to the Philosophy of Science . My research in this area involves both finding illustrations in linguistics of the ideas of the various philosophers that I discuss and using notions from linguistics to improve on their ideas, e.g. interpreting Kuhn's notion of the "paradigm" of a scientific community as a set of markedness conventions governing activity within that community.

Some areas in which I work sporadically are phonology (formerly a central research interest, but now largely limited to my teaching a course on Japanese phonology every few years), the history of linguistics (especially research on Otto Jespersen, my biggest hero in the history of the field), typology, and the study of writing systems (taken in a broad sense that includes musical notation and mathematical notation).

Full list of publications and work in progress
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Page created September 19, 1996
Last updated November 20, 1998