Questions about the nature of the appropriate data for linguistics may seem a mundane matter, but they reflect deep issues about'the nature of language and of the science of linguistics, if science it be. Consequently the methodological modifications suggested by Carden and Dieterich (1981) and Zwicky (1981) could have ramifications far beyond a slight broadening of the range of data relevant to syntactic theory. In section 1, I review the arguments for the currently standard theory against the suggestion to broaden the range of data, and in section 2. I try to give a brief historical account of the origins of the presuppositions of the orthodox theory.
The current official conception of the goal of syntactic theory is that it is to distinguish syntactically well-formed strings of a given language from those that are not syntactically well-formed, and to provide structural descriptions of the sentences.