More than thirty million theories of features

The implicit complaint in McCawley’s book title, Thirty Million Theories of Grammar, was that having many theories of something is a less satisfactory state of affairs than having few (viable) theories of it — to paraphrase Thomas Graf’s characterization of that position, if you have more than one viable description of something, you don’t fully understand it. At the Thirty Million Theories of Features workshop, I was indeed hoping we would be left with fewer than we started from. I’m not sure we are (see Gillian’s blog posts for some summaries). But Thomas Graf articulated the opposite perspective, that it can be better to have more theories of a complex object of study — in his words, if you only have one viable description, you don’t fully understand the object you’re describing.

Now we segue into Omer Preminger week, with two additional talks and discussion with Omer Preminger (Wednesday and Friday).

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