The logical problem of language acquisition

Synthese 111 (1):17-51 (1997)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Arguments from the Logical Problem of Language Acquisition suggest that since linguistic experience provides few negative data that would falsify overgeneral grammatical hypotheses, innate knowledge of the principles of Universal Grammar must constrain learners hypothesis formulation. Although this argument indicates a need for domain-specific constraints, it does not support their innateness. Learning from mostly positive data proceeds unproblematically in virtually all domains. Since not every domain can plausibly be accorded its own special faculty, the probative value of the argument in the linguistic case is dubious. In ignoring the holistic and probablistic nature of theory construction, the argument underestimates the extent to which positive data can supply negative evidence and hence overestimates the intractability of language learning in the absence of a dedicated faculty. While nativism about language remains compelling, the alleged Logical Problem contributes nothing to its plausibility and the emphasis on the Problem in the recent acquisition literature has been a mistake.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 93,069

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Language acquisition recapitulates language evolution?Teresa Satterfield - 2008 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):532-533.
Is LF really a linguistic level?Nick Chater - 2002 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 25 (6):680-680.

Analytics

Added to PP
2009-01-28

Downloads
249 (#84,786)

6 months
17 (#161,262)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Fiona Cowie
Last affiliation: California Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Gold’s Theorem and Cognitive Science.Kent Johnson - 2004 - Philosophy of Science 71 (4):571-592.
Chomsky in the playground: Idealization in generative linguistics.Giulia Terzian - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 87 (C):1-12.
Philosophy, Drama and Literature.Rick Benitez - 2011 - In Graham Robert Oppy, Nick Trakakis, Lynda Burns, Steven Gardner & Fiona Leigh (eds.), A companion to philosophy in Australia & New Zealand. Clayton, Victoria, Australia: Monash University Publishing. pp. 371-372.

Add more citations