Chomsky and Knowledge of Language Essay example

Chomsky and Knowledge of Language Essay example

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The linguistic theory of Chomsky has changed the long, traditional way of studying language. The nature of knowledge, which is closely tied to human knowledge in general, makes it a logical step for Chomsky to generalize his theory to the study of the relation between language and the world-in particular, the study of truth and reference. But his theory has been controversial and his proposal of "innate ideas" has been resisted by some empiricists who characterize him as rationalist. In our view, these empiricists make a mistake. In the present paper we attend to his position regarding linguistics as a science of mind/brain, which we believe is an important aspect of his theory that has not been paid enough attention or understood by his opponents. In turn, this will help to clarify some of the confusions around his theory. Finally we will discuss some of the debatable issues based on the outlines we draw.

1

Chomsky's linguistic theory is based on the following empirical facts: "child learns language with limited stimuli", or the problem of poverty of evidence. (1) The input during the period of a natural language acquisition is circumscribed and degenerate. The output simply cannot be accounted for by the learning mechanism only, such as induction and analogy on the input. The output and input differ both in quantity and quality. A subject knows linguistic facts without instruction or even direct evidence. These empirical facts, "knowledge without ground", (2) are expressed: "Knowledge of language is normally attained through brief exposure, and the character of the acquired knowledge may be largely predetermined." (3)

This predetermined knowledge is some "notion of structure", in the mind of the speaker , which gu...


... middle of paper ...


... but can hardly exist apart from languages, how could it be in the mind prior to language? What are those ideas? (Goodman, 1969, p.141)

(24) He adds an interesting points: "Nevertheless, I think that what is significant in his paper is the fact that he believes that a genetic account is relevant to certain fundamental epistemological questions lying at the foundation of language." (Harman, 1969, p.170)

(25) Quine, 1969, p.95. Also Lewis, Davison, Searle (Chomsky, 1986).

(26) Quine, 1972.

(27) The state SL is attained by setting parameters of So in one of the permissible ways, this is essential part of what is "learned," yielding the core, and adding a periphery of marked exceptions on the basis of specific experience, in accordance with the markedness principles of So.

(28) Nagel, 1969, p.172.

(29) Chomsky, 1986, p.269.

(30) Danto, 1969, p.136.

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