On innate notions of linguistic knowledge

Dissertation, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (2012)
Abstract
This paper is concerned with a justifiable criterion of truth for an epistemic framework of linguistic knowledge. Chomskian nativism objects the behaviorist view that linguistic knowledge is acquired through experience. We evaluate both arguments on the nature of linguistic knowledge: is it acquired through experience or grounded in innate notions? If Chomsky's theories are true, propositions involving concepts or formal logic grounded in linguistic knowledge have a criterion of truth. The plausibility of innate notions of linguistic knowledge as a point of self-evidence is discussed: how can we justify both grammatical and lexical beliefs to be true without any prior inferential basis? My conclusion favours the nativist view as a plausible solution, but draws distinction between syntactic and lexical aspects of linguistic knowledge.
Keywords linguistic knowledge  epistemology  nativism  behaviorism  innateness  experience
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