In response to: “The Recovery of Case” by David Berlinski & Juan Uriagereka (Vol. 2, No. 3).


To the editors:1

David Berlinski and Juan Uriagereka have written a very readable (and amusing) history of classical case theory: At the core of case lies an abstract, phonetically null Case.2 The essay is also very pedagogical for it focuses on how Jean-Roger Vergnaud’s proposal regarding abstract case (i.e., Case) enhanced the explanatory power of Universal Grammar (UG).3 It does this by showing how Chomsky–Lasnik filters were a vast improvement over ordered rules with all of their intricacies, and how case theory was a big conceptual improvement over filters like *[NP to VP].4 The story ends with the observation that exceptional case-marking is, well, “exceptional” and suggests, coyly, that this raises interesting issues.5 It does.

One of the nicest results of minimalist inquiry—broadly, linguistic theory carried out at various stages within the Minimalist Program—is arguably Howard Lasnik and Mamoru Saito’s regularization of Postal’s scope facts with respect to exceptional case-marking subjects in the context of a theory of case that gets rid of government and replaces it with something like the old specifier–head configuration.6 What Lasnik and Saito show is that given such a theory, one that the earliest versions of the Minimalist Program promoted, one would expect a correlation between (abstract) case value (i.e. Case) and the scope of the case-assigned noun phrase.7 Postal’s data, Lasnik and Saito argued, showed exactly that. This was a wonderful paper and one of the first really interesting results of minimalist logic.

Looking at subsequent developments of the Minimalist Program, this result fit ill with the move to Agree-based Probe–Goal conceptions of case licensing (after all, the whole idea of the Lasnik and Saito theory is that the noun phrase had to move to a higher position in order to get case licensed and that this movement expanded its scope horizons).8 However, Chomsky’s more recent ideas concerning labeling might force object movement as well and so reclaim the Postal facts—though not within the domain of a theory of case.9

At any rate, all of this is to indicate that there are further interesting theoretical movements prompted by Vergnaud’s original theory even to the present day.10 And while there surely are some who think that it was entirely on the wrong track, even they should appreciate the Berlinski and Uriagereka reconstruction.

But we want to make two further observations concerning Berlinski and Uriagereka’s review of classical case theory.

First, as Berlinski and Uriagereka emphasize (and rightly so, in our opinion), what made Vergnaud’s proposal so interesting as regards explanatory adequacy was that it was not signaled by surface features of noun phrases in some, or even many, languages (e.g. English or Chinese).11 In other words, it was not What You See Is What You Get. If it held, then it could not be reasonably acquired simply by tracking surface morphology. This is what made it a candidate for UG. And this is why it bore on issues of explanatory adequacy.

In fact, it was a nice example of poverty-of-stimulus (POS) thinking: You know it despite no primary linguistic data (i.e. early-life language input) to motivate it, hence it is part of the faculty of language (FL), that is, ultimately, UG.12 Again, it is the absence of surface reflexes of the principle that made it interesting.

As Berlinski and Uriagereka put it: “Deep down, case is compelling because linguistics has become a part of the Galilean undertaking, a way of explaining what is visible by an appeal to what is not.” Not being “visible” is the key here.

Second, Berlinski and Uriagereka note how Principles-and-Parameters models were influenced by the work of François Jacob and Jacques Monod on the operon, a cluster of contiguous genes in genomic DNA transcribed from a single regulatory signal, the promoter, that gives rise to a polycistronic mRNA.13 Indeed, we would go further: The kind of work that microbiologists were doing was taken to serve as good models of how work on language could proceed—and case theory, as Vergnaud envisaged it, was a nice example of such thinking. Here is what we mean.

The operon was discovered by research on very simple bacteria and the supposition was made that how it worked there was how it worked everywhere. Its logic extends from bacteria to butterflies, chickens, lions, whales, worms, and so on. In other words, reasoning based on a very simple organism was taken to illuminate how far different organisms organized their microbiology. And all of this without replicating the work on butterflies, chickens, lions, etc.

This reasoning as applied to linguistics allows inferences from the intensive study of one language to prima facie apply to all. Indeed, the POS argument licenses this kind of inference, which is why it is such an interesting and powerful form of argument. (While the following may be somewhat inflated, we are very serious about the core of the reasoning.14)

Why do we mention this? Because linguists nowadays do not really believe this. Evidence that we do not can be seen in our reactions to critics. A staple of criticism of generative grammar is that it is English-centric. The supposition behind this criticism is that one cannot legitimately say anything about FL/UG based on the study of a smattering of languages. To talk about FL/UG responsibly requires studying a broad swath of different languages for only in so doing is one licensed to make universal inferences.

We reply to the critics by noting how much current linguistic work is typological and cross-linguistic, and that so many linguists are working on so many different kinds of languages. But why is this our only retort? Why not say that one can gain terrific insight into FL/UG by studying a single language? Why the requirement that any claim be founded on masses of cross-linguistic investigation?

Note that this is exactly what Jacob and Monod did not do. Nor do microbiologists do so today. Microbiologists study a handful of model organisms, and from these we infer laws of biology. That is deemed okay in biology—but not in linguistics. Why?

Why do linguists presuppose that only the extensive study of a wide number of different languages will allow insight into FL/UG? It is not the history of the field, so far as we can tell.

Berlinski and Uriagereka show how classical case theory arose. Similar stories can be told for virtually every other non-trivial theory within linguistics. It arose not via the study of lots of languages but by trying to understand simple facts within a small number in some deep way. This is how bounding theory arose, the ECP, binding, and more.15

So, why the presupposition (visible in the replies we give to our critics that we do, really really do, study more than just English) that cross-linguistic typological investigations are the only sure way to investigate FL/UG?

We think we know one answer: Linguists do not really know much about FL/UG. In other words, many researchers will reply that our claims are weak. We do not buy this. But if you do, then it is not clear why critics of generative grammar upset you with their claims. Is it that they are saying out loud what you believe but do not think should be shared in polite company?

If on the right track, the above seems to us ample justification that future research need not be solely reserved for “[t]he strong sense of the term ‘biolinguistics’ [which] refers to attempts to provide explicit answers to questions that necessarily require the combination of linguistic insights and insights from related disciplines (evolutionary biology, genetics, neurology, psychology, etc.),” as Cedric Boeckx and Kleanthes Grohmann wrote in their inaugural editorial for the open-access journal Biolinguistics. They juxtaposed the “strong sense” with the “weak sense,” indicating “work focusing narrowly on properties of the grammar,” which is “not only necessary, but has very often proven to be the basis for more interdisciplinary studies.”16 There is thus a clear case to be made in favor of the weak sense of biolinguistic inquiry, and one which linguists should not be too shy to simply hide behind. Abstract case theory is a very good example with its implications for languistics, linguistics, and FL/UG.17

In sum, POS works quite well based on the investigations of a single language. We might even go further: POS argumentation, if doable, is far more powerful than cross-linguistic work in establishing principles of FL/UG. Of course, one wants to get as much data as one can for any proposition, so cross-linguistic validation is always welcome. But the idea that this is the sine qua non of universal reasoning strikes us as just plain wrong. And Vergnaud’s insight, stemming from what ultimately became case theory, was a crucial step forward. Berlinski and Uriagereka did an excellent job highlighting not only the ins and outs of his original letter, but also some of the many consequences this brought about. We just added a few more.


Juan Uriagereka replies:

I believe Norbert Hornstein and Kleanthes Grohmann have understood the spirit of the piece best. I know these two well—have even been the subject of their pointed criticism more than once—so I don’t believe they are “just being nice” when noticing how the original essay was trying to celebrate the logic of “explanatory adequacy.” It is true that other such examples could be chosen, beyond Vergnaud’s letter; indeed, I hope others are encouraged to point them out, since they are what makes our field exciting and far reaching. Norbert’s and Klea’s letter is a perfect example of this kind of energy and scope, as are their roles in venues like the “widely read” blog The Faculty of Language or the equally “widely read” journal Biolinguistics… If I carry any weight within Inference after this exercise, I would embarrass David publicly into inviting Cassidy & Sundance to write a piece of their own, so that I and others can have the perverse pleasure of commenting too. In any case, if there is some consensus that, I believe, emerges from all these pieces is that Jean-Roger’s little jewel was, well, indeed a gem. I am satisfied on that aspect of this exercise alone, as a tribute to a friend and most admired precursor. Everything else, to me, pales by comparison.


David Berlinski replies:

Hornstein and Grohmann, it is rewarding to recount, agree with us on, at least, one fundamental point: Vergnaud’s study of case is provocative because “if it held, then it could not be reasonably acquired simply by tracking surface morphology.” In a charming video, Vergnaud made the point more generally. No deep analysis of language is possible if the linguist restricts himself to its surface. Speaking English with an ineradicable French accent, Vergnaud advanced and illustrated his thesis at one and the same time.18 “It was not,” Hornstein and Grohmann write, a matter of “What You See Is What You Get.”

I am less persuaded by another of Hornstein and Grohmann’s claims:

The operon was discovered by research on very simple bacteria and the supposition was made that how it worked there was how it worked everywhere. Its logic extends from bacteria to butterflies, chickens, lions, whales, worms, and so on. In other words, reasoning based on a very simple organism was taken to illuminate how far different organisms organized their microbiology. And all of this without replicating the work on butterflies, chickens, lions, etc.

This thesis is widely said to have had almost a hypnotic effect on the community of linguists. It is quite astonishing that Francois Jacob, who likened the progression of life on earth to a rummage sale (bricolage), should have persuaded otherwise fastidious linguists that he had anything interesting to say. It suffers from the defect that it is not true, and it is certainly not true as stated.19

In the 1990s, operon-like systems were discovered in a few eukaryotes, such as C. elegans, but it is long way from the worms to the elephants. It is, in fact, a long way from one bug to another:

Here we have demonstrated a polarity of expression in operons of S. coelicolor not seen in E. coli, bringing caution to those that apply operon prediction strategies based on E. coli ‘equal-expression’ to divergent species.20

In responding to the wide-spread complaint that generative linguists study only a handful of languages, Hornstein and Grohmann respond that in the first place, it is not true, and that in the second place, were it true, it would not much matter. Their batting average, I regret to say, is only fifty percent. It is among the glories of generative linguistics that generative linguists have studied a very large number of languages, the full scope of their research encompassing the familiar, the exotic, the weird, and the dead. Full credit. But the inferences they are prepared to draw from model organisms in microbiology are invalid. They are invalid in microbiology. Had microbiologist studied only the bacteria, they would never have noticed the doubtful relevance of the operon cluster to the eukaryotes. As one might expect, precisely the same thing has proven true in linguistics. In an interesting MIT dissertation, “Phrase Structure in Minimalist Syntax,” Masatoshi Koizumi draws an inference to universal grammar from a study of “three typologically and genetically different languages: English, Zarma, and Japanese.” They all possess, he argues, Object Agreement Phrases. I am in no position to argue.

It is precisely because Vergnaud was studying languages with little by way of case structure that his daring conjecture is today recognized as superb. Had the late Latin grammarians such as Priscian conceived an interest in universal grammar, instead of consuming themselves in anxieties about Latin barbarisms, they would have mentioned case at once. It was at their fingertips.

Linguists have been talking about the emerging bio-linguistic perspective for a very long time. So far as I can see, what has emerged is the perspective, and nothing else. The perspective belongs to the rich and ever-increasing category of Good Thoughts. This has resulted in any number of spectacular speculative contortions. It would be best, many evolutionary biologists believe, if nothing distinctively human remained of human language so that one might see its parts scattered throughout the long black night of evolution. Books pour off the academic and popular presses affirming earnestly the extent to which we are just like every other creature that walks, slithers, flaps, swims, or slobbers its way across the surface of the earth. With all that is properly distinctive of human language diminished, there remains recursion; and, who knows? some assiduous Dutch zoologist is certain shortly to claim that among the Kardashians, many of them may be seen exhibiting, or, at least, studying aspects of recursive function theory.

It is useful propaganda, earnestly pursued.

No one believes a word of it. It is not true.

On the question of the origins of language, the bio-linguistic paradigm has nothing to say, and on the question of its nature, what it has to say has nothing to do with biology.

But this is true of all of the distinctive properties of the human species. From bipedalism to an ability to undertake research in category theory to the remarkable and entirely unique form of social organization that is characteristic of the human species – there is nothing remotely like it in the rest of the animal kingdom. It is a point that Chomsky has often noted. “Any progress toward this goal will deepen a problem for the biological sciences that is far from trivial: how can a system such as human language arise in the mind/brain, or, for that matter, in the organic world, in which one seems not to find anything like human language?”21

But now a secret must be imparted. If there is nothing like it in the rest of the animal kingdom, there is nothing like the organic world in the physical world either. The Association of Divorce Attorneys for Men (ADAM) is not among the elements that physicists discern in the Standard Model.

Who ordered that?

I am not sure that the bio-linguistic perspective makes all that much sense in biology itself. A Martian linguist visiting the earth may well conclude that there is only one language and that is the human language. Chomsky has made this claim. It is both profound and moving. I doubt very much that a Martian biologist would conclude that there is only one life form on earth and that is the living system. There are two reasons to suppose that this is false. The first is the overwhelming and obvious diversity of living systems. That living systems share deep and important biochemical systems no one doubts. But the difference between a flowering bush and a flat-tailed beaver are too overwhelming to be subsumed under the conceptual category of a theme with variations. This is one reason. The second is more important. Languages do not evolve. They may change, but since they do not replicate, they cannot change as living creatures change. The thesis that there is one human language is contingent on the assumption that there has been only one unchanging faculty of language, one there from the beginning, all of the world’s subsequent languages embedded as possibilities from the start. One computational system, one lexicon, one language, as a memorable monoglot said in quite another context. Were we returned to the site where for the first time, human beings could have been observed talking things over the details of the day’s chase or engaging in the kind of matrimonial disputes that are as characteristic of the species as anything else, they could with effort come to understand what we were saying and we could understand what they were saying. To make the same claim about living systems must involve some hypothesis about front-loading. The biologist Michael Sherman has proposed that the origins of the Metazoa lie with what he calls a universal genome, something that popped up shortly before the Cambrian explosion.22 It follows, as Sherman diligently notes, that “a significant fraction of genetic information in lower taxons must be functionally useless …”

There is no evidence whatsoever to support front-loading in biology; it makes no sense whatsoever in evolutionary terms.

I am as surprised as anyone to find myself making this argument.

One last word. The quest for simplicity, which is said powerfully to influence the minimalist program, is also said to reflect a consensus among physicists that the very most fundamental laws of nature will prove as satisfying and as simple as a divorce decree.

I doubt it. “Tout dans la nature est complexe,” René Thom once observed.23


Kleanthes Grohmann is a professor of Biolinguistics and Director of the CAT lab at the University of Cyprus.

Norbert Hornstein is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.

Juan Uriagereka is a professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Maryland.

David Berlinski is an American writer.

  1. This letter is a slightly modified version originally posted by the first author on his widely read blog, Faculty of Language. As it coincided with the second author’s recent exchanges with a non-generative linguist on empty elements in grammar and the strength of poverty of stimulus arguments, he shamelessly took it upon himself to modify, streamline, and reference the texts when he was asked by the editors of Inference to comment on the original piece by David Berlinski and Juan Uriagereka. Both authors have given their seal of approval on the final version. See Norbert Hornstein, “A Zesty Intro to the Logic of Explanatory Adequacy with a Nod to JR Vergenaud [sic],” (October 5, 2016) and Norbert Hornstein, “An Addendum to the Previous Post,” (October 6, 2016). 
  2. David Berlinski and Juan Uriagereka, “The Recovery of Case,” Inference: International Review of Science 2, no. 3 (2016). 
  3. Jean-Roger Vergnaud, “Letter to Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik on ‘Filters and Control,’ April 17, 1977,” in Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory: Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud, eds. Robert Freidin et al. (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), 3–15. 
  4. See Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik, “Filters and Control,” Linguistic Inquiry 8, no. 3 (1977): 425–504. The typical reference for classic case theory is Noam Chomsky, Lectures on Government and Binding: The Pisa Lectures (Dordrecht: Foris, 1981). 
  5. For a different kind of issues, and novel suggestions, see e.g. Wolfram Hinzen, “On the Rationality of Case,” Language Sciences 46 (Part B), 133–51 (2014). 
  6. For the Minimalist Program see Noam Chomsky, The Minimalist Program (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1995). Strictly speaking, MP started with the publication of Noam Chomsky, “A Minimalist Program for Linguistic Theory,” in The View from Building 20: Essays in Linguistics in Honor of Sylvain Bromberger, ed. Kenneth Hale and Samuel Jay Keyser (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1993), 1–52. [Reprinted in Chomsky (1995), 167–217.] Or rather, even already with Noam Chomsky, “Some Notes on Economy of Derivation and Representation,” in Principles and Parameters in Generative Grammar, ed. Robert Freidin (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1991), 417–54. [Reprinted in Chomsky (1995), 129–66.] And MP has subsequently received a drastic shift through Phase Theory first circulated in 1998 and much refined in subsequent work by Noam Chomsky and many others: Noam Chomsky, “Minimalist Inquiries: The Framework,” in Step by Step: Essays on Minimalist Syntax in Honor of Howard Lasnik, ed. Roger Martin, David Michaels, and Juan Uriagereka (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000), 89–155. See Barbara Citko, Phase Theory: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). For a classic textbook treatment sketching the beginnings and developments of MP, see Norbert Hornstein, Jairo Nunes, and Kleanthes K. Grohmann, Understanding Minimalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

    Howard Lasnik and Mamoru Saito, “On the Subject of Infinitives,” in Papers from the 27th Regional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society 1991. Part 1: The General Session, eds. Lise Dobrin et al. (Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistics Society, 1991), 324–43.

    Paul Postal, On Raising: One Rule of English Grammar and Its Theoretical Implications (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974). 
  7. For a textbook presentation of the facts and different analyses, see Norbert Hornstein, Jairo Nunes, and Kleanthes Grohmann, Understanding Minimalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), chapter 4. 
  8. This refers to Phase Theory (see note 4). See, for example, Noam Chomsky, “Derivation by Phase,” in Ken Hale: A Life in Language, ed. M. Kenstowicz (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 1–52. 
  9. See Noam Chomsky, “Problems of Projections,” Lingua 130, 33–49 (2013) and Noam Chomsky, “Problems of Projections: Extensions,” in Structures, Strategies and Beyond: Studies in Honour of Adriana Belletti, ed. Elisa Di Domenico, Cornelia Hamann, and Simona Matteini (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2015), 1–16. 
  10. Berlinski and Uriagereka list some, others can be found easily. For interesting extensions beyond classical case theory, see Omer Preminger, Agreement and Its Failures (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014). 
  11. Jean-Roger Vergnaud, “Letter to Noam Chomsky and Howard Lasnik on ‘Filters and Control,’ April 17, 1977,” in Foundational Issues in Linguistic Theory: Essays in Honor of Jean-Roger Vergnaud, eds. Robert Freidin et al., (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008), 3–15.

    See Berlinski and Uriagereka’s brief discussion of Noam Chomsky, Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1965). 
  12. For a good summary and excellent response to critics, see especially Julie Anne Legate and Charles Yang, “Empirical Re-Assessment of Stimulus Poverty Arguments,” The Linguistic Review 19, no. 1–2 (2002): 151–162, alongside other critical assessments in that special double issue, the more recent Robert Berwick, Paul Pietroski, Beracah Yankama, and Noam Chomsky, “Poverty of the Stimulus Revisited,” Cognitive Science 35 (2011): 1207–42, Noam Chomsky, “Poverty of Stimulus: Unfinished Business,”, Studies in Chinese Linguistics 33 (2012): 1–16, and the forthcoming review by Howard Lasnik and Jeff Lidz, “The Argument from the Poverty of the Stimulus,” in The Oxford Handbook of Universal Grammar, ed. Ian Roberts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in press), chapter 10. 
  13. For the current state of the art P&P models, see e.g. the collection of papers in Antonio Fábregas, Jaume Mateu, and Michael T. Putnam (eds.), Contemporary Linguistic Parameters (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).

    François Jacob et al., “L'opéron: Groupe de gènes à expression coordonnée par un opérateur,” Comptes Rendus des Séances de l’Academie des Sciences 250, no. 6 (1960): 1,727–29, trans. Edward Adelberg, “The Operon: A Group of Genes Whose Expression is Coordinated by an Operator,” in The Power of Bacterial Genetics: A Literature-Based Course, eds. Jonathan Beckwith and Thomas Silhavy (Cold Spring Harbor, NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1992), 330–32.

    The first related publication in English is François Jacob and Jacques Monod, “Genetic Regulatory Mechanisms in the Synthesis of Proteins,” Journal of Molecular Biology 3, no. 3, (1961): 318–56. For a personal retrospective, see François Jacob, “The Birth of the Operon,” Science 332, no. 6031 (2011): 767. 
  14. For further discussion, see e.g. the comments posted to Norbert Hornstein, “An Addendum to the Previous Post,” (October 6, 2016). 
  15. For textbook presentations from an MP perspective, see Norbert Hornstein, Jairo Nunes, and Kleanthes Grohmann, Understanding Minimalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), such as chapters 2 (ECP), 4 (case), 6 (phrase structure), or 8 (binding). 
  16. Cedric Boeckx and Kleanthes Grohmann, “The Biolinguistics Manifesto,” Biolinguistics 1 (2007), 2. 
  17. On the notion of ‘languistics’, see especially the blog entries by Norbert Hornstein, “My Problem with Semantics,” (November 9, 2012), “LSA Summer Camp,” (October 24, 2013), and “Hornstein’s Lament,” (March 14, 2014) and Evelina Leivada, “From Comparative Languistics to Comparative (Bio)linguistics: Reflections on Variation,” Biolinguistics 8 (2014): 53–66. 
  18. Have We All Been Right? Looking Backwards at Linguistic Theory, Statistics, and Language Acquisition,” MIT video, (2007). 
  19. See, for example, Thomas Blumenthal, “Operons in Eukaryotes,” Briefings in Functional Genomics and Proteomics 3, no. 3 (2004): 199–211. From the abstract:
    It was thought that polycistronic transcription is a characteristic of bacteria and archaea, where many of the genes are clustered in operons composed of two to more than ten genes. By contrast, the genes of eukaryotes are generally considered to be monocistronic, each with its own promoter at the 5′ end and a transcription terminator at the 3′ end; however, it has recently become clear that not all eukaryotic genes are transcribed monocistronically. Numerous instances of polycistronic transcription in eukaryotes, from protists to chordates, have been reported. These can be divided into two broad types. Dicistronic transcription units specify a messenger RNA (mRNA) encoding two separate genes that is transported to the cytoplasm and translated in that form. Presumably, internal ribosome entry sites (IRES), or some form of translational re-initiation following the stop codon, are responsible for allowing translation of the downstream gene. In the other type, the initial transcript is processed by 3′ end cleavage and trans-splicing to create monocistronic mRNAs that are transported to the cytoplasm and translated. Like bacterial operons, eukaryotic operons often result in co-expression of functionally related proteins.
     
  20. Emma Laing et al., “Analysis of Gene Expression in Operons of Streptomyces Coelicolor,” Genome Biology 7, no. R46 (2006), doi:10.1186/gb-2006-7-6-r46. 
  21. Noam Chomsky, The Minimalist Program (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 1. 
  22. Michael Sherman, “Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa: Thoughts About Evolution,” (2007). 
  23. See Jordi Andreu and Ángel Gallego, “Introduction: The Minimalist Program and the concept of Universal Grammar,” Catalan Journal of Linguistics 8 (2009): 7-15. The authors write:
    For instance, it is conceivable to construct a theory of how linguistic properties derive from external principles that postulates a multitude of idiosyncratic principles, instead of a relatively small set of general and fundamental principles. Although this would be an impressive achievement, it would not satisfy the usual scientific ideals of simplicity and solidness.
    Solidness makes no sense in this context.