Three Ways to Link Merge with Hierarchical Concept-Combination

Chris Thornton

Abstract


In the Minimalist Program, language competence is seen to stem from a fundamental ability to construct hierarchical structure, an operation dubbed ‘Merge’. This raises the problem of how to view hierarchical concept-combination. This is a conceptual operation which also builds hierarchical structure. We can conceive of a garden that consists of a lawn and a flower-bed, for example, or a salad consisting of lettuce, fennel and rocket, or a crew consisting of a pilot and engineer. In such cases, concepts are put together in a way that makes one the accommodating element with respect to the others taken in combination. The accommodating element becomes the root of a hierarchical unit. Since this unit is itself a concept, the operation is inherently recursive. Does this mean the mind has two independent systems of hierarchical construction? Or is some form of integration more likely? Following a detailed examination of the operations involved, this paper shows there are three main ways in which Merge might be linked to hierarchical concept-combination. Also examined are the architectural implications that arise in each case.

Keywords


Merge; minimalism; hierarchical concept combinability

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Copyright (c) 2016 Chris Thornton

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