To build on my other question (still closed despite the complete revision): do you think it would be helpful to have a wiki page outlining the existing theories of syntax and the relations between them? (If such a page already exists, please let me know.)

I have noticed that some questions on this forum are stuck after a comment like "we do not know which theory of generative grammar you are using", etc.

I would like to clarify my question, since many understood it as a request for a comprehensive review of grammar theories: i.e., a) encompassing all the possible theories and b) covering them and their differences in details.

I was mainly asking for a review of the major grammar schools/theories. I think such a review would be valuable as for the beginners/outsiders coming to the field and seeking guidance, as well as as a reference for having more pointed discussions.

I think that comparing theories is more meaningful than considering them separately, as they often originate as an improvement, critique or rejection of other theories.

Finally, I certainly do not intend to create such a review myself - this is why I am posting this question to more knowledgeable people.

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    Here's a non-exhaustive wiki list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Grammar_frameworks
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 6 '20 at 13:11
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  • @prash Indeed, I've seen this book. Note however, that it covers only three out of the five classes of theories mentioned in the question that I linked. Mar 6 '20 at 13:32
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    Are the five categories based on your own personal opinions, or are they supported by some existing classification known well in the field? If you were to read the book, you'll notice that Müller has covered some "exotic" theories as well, without listing them as a separate chapter.
    – prash Mod
    Mar 6 '20 at 13:40
  • @prash It is my opinion, but it doesn't seem to be that there could be much dispute about it: unless one claims that there were no syntax before Chomsky and/or that there were no independent developments on the other side of the iron curtain. The latter claim seems especially strong, given that such independent developments did occur in many other fields (e.g., physics, biology, economics, psychology). Mar 6 '20 at 13:45
  • There are a few Russians here. Let's hope they blow the whistle on the iron curtain!
    – prash Mod
    Mar 6 '20 at 13:56
  • @prash thanks for the link!
    – Alex B.
    Mar 6 '20 at 17:37
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    This is not a question about linguistics, it is a question about how LSE might operate: it belongs on Meta.
    – user6726
    Mar 6 '20 at 18:56
  • @user6726 no need for being so arrogant. Mar 6 '20 at 19:49
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because references are given in the comments.
    – Mitch
    Mar 6 '20 at 20:22
  • @Mitch I don't quite get the link between the references and the question being off-topic. Is the linguistics forum only for the experts? Mar 6 '20 at 21:00
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    @vadim The usual SE strategy for closing is that if a question is easily answered using available references, then it is closable as general reference. But that was my single close vote. Most people who close voted were actually voting to migrate, namely to meta. So it is still alive, just on meta.
    – Mitch
    Mar 6 '20 at 21:05
  • @Mitch if you have read Müller's book, given as the reference, you you know that the answer is not simple. Besides, these references do not give a direct and complete answer to what I actually asked. Mar 6 '20 at 21:12
  • A classification of syntactic theories would have to be historical, with features hopping from one track to another, and individual tracks spinning off. Rather like the history of popular music
    – jlawler
    Jan 23 at 20:31

It would be useful to me to have wiki pages that outline particular theories of syntax and, frankly, useless to start with a comparison of theories. If you don't know what Aspects theory is, what EST is, and what Minimalism is, you can't understand a comparison of the three. A wall of text comparing HPSG, Minimalism and Relational Grammar would be uninformative. Somebody, theoretically speaking, could write an informative short introduction to Minimalism, which for people who don't know the theory could be useful. Likewise a blurb on Shaumyan's theory, though I don't have a need for such a thing.

We can exclude consideration of at least Shaumyan's theory, Aspects, RG, GPSG if by "major theory" you mean theories that are adhered to by large numbers of syntacticians – popularity-based sorting of theories. The most basic comparison of theories would probably be Minimalism vs. HPSG. I am dubious that anybody is both capable and willing to set forth such a comparison, though perhaps two people could collaborate (example here). I will say that that specific paper is not an exemplar of what you seem to be looking for, because it seems to presuppose that you know both theories, and you just need someone to point out the similarities and differences. That's lacking with beginners/outsiders seeking guidance, but may be a useful reference for pointed discussions. Comparing X and Y logically presupposes that you know what X is and what Y is – then you ask, how are they different?

Wiki pages could in principle be useful, if the pages themselves were useful. A vast repository of wiki pages still will not solve the problem of an out-of-the-blue question about "Chomsky's theory". Meaning, anything that satisfies the fundamental criteria of "generativity" set forth in Apects? Chomsky's this-week thinking about Minimalism (thus excluding cartography)? You still have to say what theory of syntax you're asking about.

In asking "would it be helpful to have a wiki page", you don't say where think such a page should exist. Actually, you can get a certain amount of information about theories from Wikipedia. I imagine a number of articles in linguistics have been progagated to other wiki-like sites. The apt question for Ling SE is, what kind of wiki pages would serve the particular needs of this site, which is not a substitute for a systematic education in linguistics. IMO an Ling SE comparison of major syntactic theories fills a much-needed gap in the literature. There are some repeated questions about phonemes that we get that are repetitive enough that they ought to be closed as "asked and answered". I don't know what would be such questions in syntax: are there any annoying questions that get asked over and over. Theory-comparison does not strike me as an example.

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    There's no point us duplicating the broader linguistic community's work on Wikipedia though. If any of us feel in the mood to write wiki pages, we should direct our efforts to improving that wiki rather than starting a new one.
    – curiousdannii Mod
    Mar 8 '20 at 0:25

Would you trust, say, a classification of physical theories proposed by someone who had never done any first class work in physics? I wouldn't. I found some of the references mentioned in the above comments sort of interesting, but of little value. My diagnosis is that they are produced by folks whose linguistic credentials are unimpressive. My own experience is that the only people I trust to have a relatively clear view of the linguistic landscape are linguists who have done first class linguistics themselves. For the others, what reason do we have to trust what they say?

  • Physics or other STEM disciplines aren't really comparable to linguistics though, since they don't have multiple competing frameworks the way linguistics does. Mar 6 '20 at 23:54
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    @Vadim Stop making rude generalizations about people here. If your comments keep getting flagged for rudeness, your account will receive penalties.
    – prash Mod
    Mar 7 '20 at 9:27
  • @prash you and other moderators are clearly abusing your priveleges. My comment was a tit-for-tat for the rude answer above, which btw is not even an answer. Your comments are also not the top of political correctness. Mar 7 '20 at 10:16
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    @Vadim Greg did not insult any user here. If you think the other mods and I are abusing our privileges, feel free to take up the issue with the CM team.
    – prash Mod
    Mar 7 '20 at 10:24
  • @prash his answer is not an answer - I flagged it accordingly. The only phrase in my comment that could be interpreted as rude was a paraphrase from Greg's comment. Mar 7 '20 at 11:03
  • @Vadim 1. I repeat: Greg did not insult any user here. You paraphrased Greg to insult users here. 2. Meta does not work like the main site: linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/whats-meta. Your flag was not valid.
    – prash Mod
    Mar 7 '20 at 11:10
  • @prash I didn't insult anyone. I suppose that Greg has misinterpreted my comment, just as he had misinterpreted my question, whereas you acted on Greg's flag without reading either my comment or his answer. I could accept that both of you acted in good faith, although your threats were not helpful. Mar 7 '20 at 12:58
  • @prash To quote Greg: "Would you trust, say, a classification of physical theories proposed by someone who had never done any first class work in physics? I wouldn't." - I suppose this is a pick at me, even though I did not suggest in my question that I would create the wiki page myself. Regarding other users who commented above (including you): " I found some of the references mentioned in the above comments sort of interesting, but of little value. My diagnosis is that they are produced by folks whose linguistic credentials are unimpressive." Mar 7 '20 at 13:05
  • This answer does sound rude to the extend that it opens with a rhetoric counter question, and that it's an ad-hominem. I also don't see why "linguists who have done first class linguistics" is lined up with several negative arguments as if to support those. What does that imply, really? In a benign reading, the overall obvious negativity rather seems to stem from frustration, surely due to several confounding factors that remain the secret of--or even undetermined to the--the author. I mean, I don't want to insinuate anything. Greg basicly said, the idea is clear, but there's no practical way.
    – vectory
    Mar 7 '20 at 22:46
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    @Vadim, Please relax. Nothing was further from my mind than to insult you. Rather, I had in mind the reference that curiousdanni gave us to the Wikipedia taxonomy of linguistic theories. I read over several of the Wikipedia articles referenced, including that for Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar, which happens to be an enthusiasm of mine. I thought it was incompetent. (I think I know who wrote it,)
    – Greg Lee
    Mar 8 '20 at 0:16

Community Wikis should still conform to network rules. A question like name all the theories of syntax is surely way to broad, never complete, soon out of date, and most of all impossible insofar it should be headed by a lede defining what X is and which x to include, which however depends either on the particular flavor in question, or indeed needs to be so weak that the topic becomes near meaningless, in the worst case.

I mean, I have no horse in the race, but the linked, closed question exemplifies both, a generic label on the one hand, and an extensional definition from examples on the other. If those examples are apt, you would have already precluded the question, though it's still not clear to me how deep the rabbit hole goes.

If it's anything like programming languages or Linux distributions, there are myriads of short term projects, proofs of concept, domain specific languages, obscure failed ideas only of historic interest, forks over forks, often of dubious value. There are PopScientific geneological trees for either category anyway, so I won't say it couldn't be done.

Yet, if merrit is criteria for inclusion (viz "helpful"), then it is perhaps at least a tad bit to subjective.

Alternatively, it would be feasible perhaps to collect links to particular questions, if the tagging system does not offer a cursory glance, if those questions exist at all.

PS: For philosophy, which is highly fractured, I saw a project that graphed phil papers sorting and clustering importance by a messure of citation index.

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