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versión impresa ISSN 0716-1557versión On-line ISSN 0719-2789


ARIAS NAVARRO, Javier. Some preliminaries to the study of traces in linguistics. Cult.-hombre-soc. [online]. 2019, vol.29, n.2, pp.154-187. ISSN 0716-1557.

The present paper constitutes a brief advance of much longer and more detailed ongoing work on the concept of “trace” in contemporary linguistic theory, particularly in syntax. It is commonly believed that the idea was coined by Noam Chomsky. However, we already detect its use, with a very accurate value, in the early work of Zellig Harris on mathematical linguistics or, to be more precise, on mathematical structures of language. In its origins, rather than being an index responsible for marking the location occupied by a unit previous to its syntactic movement (which always takes the form of fronting ), the trace was the result of a matrix product between n-adic functions. Thus, in Harris the trace is primarily a concept anchored in matrix calculus, or, put it differently, an algebraic notion. Chomsky’s notion, on its turn, is closely related with the LISP programming language. This text seeks to provide a preliminary analysis of the conceptual complexity implied in the concept of trace, which linguists should become aware of, for otherwise they will be doomed to be entangled in misunderstandings unfruitful to our discipline for decades to come.

Palabras clave : Linguistics; Theory of Language; Zellig Sabbettai Harris; Noam Chomsky; History of Linguistics; Traces; Syntax.

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