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Chomsky’s Universe

Chomsky’s Universe
Chomsky’s Universe
Why is Noam Chomsky such a towering figure in linguistics today? He asked a very simple question that no one had ever asked before, and then discovered that the answer was unexpected and highly complicated. He asked what capacity a language user needed to have in order to be able to learn to use a language (any language) grammatically. This uniquely human capacity to learn language turned out to be universal, yet unfamiliar: it was the very same capacity in every person, for every possible language, but the rules of this “universal grammar” (UG) bore very little resemblance to the rules of ordinary grammar that were already known. By far the biggest surprise, however, was that the rules of UG are unlearnable by trial and error induction, based on what the language-learning child says and hears, unless most of the rules are already inborn.
Harnad, Stevan
442ee520-71a1-4283-8e01-106693487d8b
Harnad, Stevan
442ee520-71a1-4283-8e01-106693487d8b

Harnad, Stevan (2014) Chomsky’s Universe À babord: Revue sociale es politique

Record type: Article

Abstract

Why is Noam Chomsky such a towering figure in linguistics today? He asked a very simple question that no one had ever asked before, and then discovered that the answer was unexpected and highly complicated. He asked what capacity a language user needed to have in order to be able to learn to use a language (any language) grammatically. This uniquely human capacity to learn language turned out to be universal, yet unfamiliar: it was the very same capacity in every person, for every possible language, but the rules of this “universal grammar” (UG) bore very little resemblance to the rules of ordinary grammar that were already known. By far the biggest surprise, however, was that the rules of UG are unlearnable by trial and error induction, based on what the language-learning child says and hears, unless most of the rules are already inborn.

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Published date: 2014
Organisations: Web & Internet Science

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 371580
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/371580
PURE UUID: 1b430634-4ecc-40db-be1b-2d1d913aa907

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Date deposited: 09 Nov 2014 03:44
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 21:48

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Contributors

Author: Stevan Harnad

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