At 11:03 PM -0400 10/23/01, David Peterson wrote:
>     So, then, this would say that in the question, "What are you doing
>tonight?", as soon as the person here's "what" they think to themselves, "Ah!
>  That's an empty object noun phrase that's out of place"?  After all, after
>"what" could come "is that?" (nominative), "are you doing?" (accusative),
>"city do you come from?" (prepositional), etc.

No. This is a processing issue, not an issue of grammatical competence.

>True, speech happens quickly,
>and so there's no need to predict, since you pretty much have the whole
>utterance as soon as it's started, but what if someone hesitated, such as
>"What..., uh, just a sec, um..., what "  I don't think they'd need to wait
>until the end of the utterance to figure out that this thing is going to be a
>question about some thing.  I mean, it would make more sense to me if, rather
>than explaining the issue by saying the person hears the sentence and then
>applies all sorts of transformational rules, that either (a) they would just
>be used to questions and thus don't have to think of them in that way
>anymore, or (b) they predict what comes next.  To me it still doesn't make
>sense that the mind has to apply rules to something to understand
>it--especially such common things like questions.

In your examples you keep referring to what the listener hears, which
is ultimately irrelevant to what generative grammar tries to explain.
Think of grammatical competence as a black box; generative grammar
seeks to characterize what must be known for the black box to work
correctly. It is *not* a model of the cognitive processes which a
speaker/listener engages in when speaking or listening; that's the
domain of natural language processing. Generative grammar only
provides a model of the kinds of knowledge which must be available to
the speaker/listener in order to use and understand language.

The model only needs to correctly predict what the speaker/listener
knows, not what they do.