David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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In David Martel Johnson & Christina E. Erneling (eds.), The Future of the Cognitive Revolution, Chapter 11. Oxford University Press 149-163 (1997)
The problem with many contemporary criticisms of Chomsky and linguistic nativism is that they are based upon features of the theory that are no longer germane; aspects that have either been superseded by more adequate proposals, or that have been dropped altogether under the weight of contravening evidence. In this paper, rather than rehashing old debates that are voluminously documented elsewhere, we intend to focus on more recent developments. To this end, we have put a premium on references from the 1990s and the latter half of the 1980s. First, we will describe exactly what is now thought to be innate about language, and why it is thought to be innate rather than learned. Second, we will examine the evidence that many people take to be the greatest challenge to the nativist claim: ape language. Third, we will briefly consider how an innate language organ might have evolved. Fourth we will look at how an organism might communicate without benefit of the innate language structure proposed by Chomsky, and examine a number of cases in which this seems to be happening. Finally we will try to sum up our claims and characterize what we believe will be the most fruitful course of debate for the immediate future.
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