That is not to say that I don't think that corpus work can't be useful, even in theoretical syntax.
,,,by which he meant to say that he thinks that corpus work can be useful, even in theoretical syntax.
If you apply your intuitions to the problem of building this sentence up out of its parts, I think you'll find that what he said actually ought to be logically the opposite of what he meant, at least in the forms of English that lack negative concord.
For example, consider phrases of the form "This is not to say that I don't think that X". When X is an un-negated phrase, the result conveys that the speaker or writer actually does think that X. A few web examples:
This is not to say that I don't think that gold and silver are good wealth storage vehicles in this situation. To the contrary, I think they are excellent for these times.
This is not to say that I don't think that some people play video games to the detriment of their lives and relationships. I do think that happens.
This is not to say that I don't think that a good blow out looks Fabulous, because there is almost nothing sexier.
This is not to say that I don't think that children are products of their environment, I certainly think that can be the case.
That is not to say that I don't think that it's totally worth trying to do. Indeed, there has not been a better time in years to undertake this mission.
That is not to say that I don't think that the whole patent system needs fixing. In fact, I'd argue that it needs to be cancelled completely.
This convoluted litotic way of expressing "X' (or "I think that X") arises because the author is taking a position that might seem to oppose X, and wants to explicitly endorse X in order to prevent a misunderstanding.
So by logical analogy, "This is not to say that I don't think that not-X" should convey that the author is explicitly endorsing not-X. In this case, Gerald would then be endorsing the view that "corpus work can't be useful", which is exactly the opposite of what he meant (as the context makes clear — see below).
However, other real-world examples routinely agree with Gerald's form-meaning mapping. People who say or write "This is not to say that I don't think that not-X" are generally endorsing X, just as if they had said or written "This is not to say that I don't think that X", or "This is not to say that I think that not-X". Some web examples:
This is not to say that I don’t think that Jackie Robinson shouldn’t be honored appropriately…I think that April 15 should be a national civil rights holiday.
This is not to say that I don't think that chi blocking lessons shouldn't be taught to both benders and non-benders, I think that that's a great idea.
This is not to say that I don't think that the S-Tronic isn't good – to the contrary, I think it is a great transmission but I think it is better suited to a sporting vehicle rather than a family truck.
This is not to say that I don't think that Scots doesn't have a future. I believe it does and if it was to be lost completely, I would be devastated.
That is not to say that I don't think that books, reasoning, conversations and understanding aren't helpful. They are. But they don't fix things.
That is not to say that I don't think that Louis doesn't have a vested interest, I am sure he does as he works for a private company.
This is not to say that I don't think that those so described shouldn't be brought to court, as I think they are even more reprehensible than the warped and twisted sociopaths who derive pleasure from forcing themselves on the weak, the vulnerable and the powerless.
That's not to say that I don't believe that men in prison who have committed violent crimes can't turn around. I believe they can see the harm of their past deeds and embrace a better life.
That's not to say that I don't believe that Catastrophic Climate Change (CCC) isn't a real thing; it is.
In other words, this is one of the forms of misnegation where all — or nearly all — attested examples seem to be "wrong" or "illogical", exhibiting one too many (or one too few) negatives. Thus as I wrote in "Why are negations so easy to fail to miss", 2/26/2004, discussing phrases like "Although his attendance at school was still very poor, Stanley never failed to miss a movie at the local theaters":
It seems to me that there are several different psycholinguistic questions here: why do most people not even notice the problem in sentences like this? why do people stick in the extra "fail to" in the first place, given that the sentences mean what their authors intend if they just leave it out? why are uses of "fail to miss" so often accompanied by an additional negative ("doesn't fail to miss", "never failed to miss", etc.)? and why do people hardly ever use "fail to miss" to mean "fail to miss"?
There are several possible directions for answers to questions like this, as discussed here:
- Our poor monkey brains just can't deal with complex combinations of certain logical operators;
- The connection between English and modal logic may involve some unexpected ambiguities;
- Negative concord is alive and well in English (or in UG);
- Odd things become idioms or at least verbal habits ("could care less"; "fail to miss"; "still unpacked").
The context of Gazdar's sentence: Briscoe asked this question:
Sticking with the intellectual history and attitudes to generative grammar, in the review (Gazdar 1976) of The Form of Language (Sampson 1975), you endorsed the methodology, sometimes pejoratively known as the `armchair methodology', of generative research work. Much of that review is an attack on Sampson for adopting a behaviourist but ultimately incoherent stance. Would you also still stick with that?
In a 1975 book, Geoffrey Sampson argued that the methodology of "armchair linguistics" — relying on the researcher's intuitions as data — is fatally flawed, and should be abandoned in favor of "corpus linguistics", which depends only on the distribution of attested forms in real-world language use. Gazdar's 1976 review of Sampson's 1975 book defended intuition-based methods, and attacked Sampson's position as incoherent. In 2000, Briscoe asked Gazdar for an update on those issues. Here's the next portion of the conversation, including the sentence under discussion:
GG: Yes, oh yes. That is not to say that I don't think that corpus work can't be useful, even in theoretical syntax. For example, the discovery by Partee of a crossing coreference sentence in the Los Angeles Times was a classic case where attestation provided considerable additional support for the existence and grammaticality of what would otherwise be a very exotic class of example. If you don't have an attestation for an example like that then, unfortunately, even though such examples are clearly grammatical you leave the way open for various sorts of linguistic nutter to claim that they are not and that humans have no intuitions about them. If you can find one, one ought to embrace it.
EJB: It is the more liberal view that intuition is a very good starting point but not the only way to do this.
GG: Yes. But if you are concerned with John loves Mary then there is just no point in searching a corpus for John loves Mary or any of its counterparts – you'll find thousands of them. And if you are working on an exotic language when you know nothing about the grammar at all, you need to know about the John loves Mary sentences and the way to find out about them is to talk to an informant. My view on that is essentially the traditional one – this is how pre-Chomsky linguists would work with informants. There is nothing novel about it – Chomsky didn't invent the methodology. He simply gave a defence of it in terms of the superior status of intuitive views of one's own language and so on. My defence of it is much more pragmatic really – or it would be now.