A Peircean Approach to Syntax

Janos Sarbo (University of Nijmegen)


Traditional models of natural language take as their starting point 
that hierarchical structure is somehow given. However, this assumption 
is sometimes too rigid, and this may partly explain the limited success 
of such models in natural language processing.

The approach proposed in this paper is based on C.S. Peirce's (1839-1914) semiotic which provides us with a deeper foundation of language. In this approach, which is monostratal, hierarchical structure arises, via the interaction of language symbols, as a result of linguistic semiosis. Because interactions are events, language may be considered a set of symbol-events, a process.

We apply the process view of language to syntactic (and morphologic) structure, and by using English as an example we illustrate the potential of the Peircean framework in parsing. We argue that, by means of its syntactic structures, the English language implements signs analogous to `real' world signs introduced by C.S. Peirce.