January 29, 2005

Adequately explaining explanatory adequacy

David Beaver has just taken a look at semi-technical terminology that is (largely) peculiar to linguistics, focusing on the expression explanatory adequacy and maintaining:

Maybe the compound explanatory adequacy could be regarded as a technical term in linguistics. But I had not thought of it that way, and nor do I want to now. I personally had assumed that the meaning is derived compositionally from the meanings of explanatory and adequacy, and that neither of these were technical terms in linguistics.

Not the best of examples, since this expression has been associated with Noam Chomsky ever since he made it famous in the early 60s, in explicit contrast to descriptive adequacy. He has always treated it as a technical term, though it might just possibly be semantically compositional for him, given his views on what counts as an explanation (which would make explanation and explanatory technical terms). In any case, someone who uses the expression might just as well be waving flags that say "CHOMSKY" and "MIT".

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at January 29, 2005 02:08 PM