Saturday, November 25, 2006

on Chomsky

Knight, C. (2003). Noam Chomsky: Politics or science? What Next? Marxist discussion journal 26, 17-29. Accessed 11-06.

An interesting history of Chomsky's revolution, and how Chomsky's politics dovetails with his extremist overthrow of the field of linguistics. Here is the section I'm chewing on:

"According to Chomsky, we must choose between one of two mutually exclusive theroretical possibilities. One is that language is 'external' to the individual. If that were the case, the child acquiring language would need repetititve training and motivation through external punishments and rewards. Rejecting this, Chomsky's alternative is that language is 'internal'. The child's pre-installed, genetically determined knowledge of language can simply be allowed to 'grow.'

I'm not sure "we must choose..."

and, if I had to choose, I would choose the first alternative. It may be behaviorist, and that may be a bad word (once I was called that in a fit of rage)...but language is full of repetitive training, external punishments and rewards. However I will save my proof, or discussion, for later. I recommend this reading for anyone trying to get a handle on what has happened in linguistics in the last 50 years or so.



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