Précis of foundations of language: Brain, meaning, grammar, evolution,

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (6):651-665 (2003)
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Abstract

The goal of this study is to reintegrate the theory of generative grammar into the cognitive sciences. Generative grammar was right to focus on the child's acquisition of language as its central problem, leading to the hypothesis of an innate Universal Grammar. However, generative grammar was mistaken in assuming that the syntactic component is the sole course of combinatoriality, and that everything else is “interpretive.” The proper approach is a parallel architecture, in which phonology, syntax, and semantics are autonomous generative systems linked by interface components. The parallel architecture leads to an integration within linguistics, and to a far better integration with the rest of cognitive neuroscience. It fits naturally into the larger architecture of the mind/brain and permits a properly mentalistic theory of semantics. It results in a view of linguistic performance in which the rules of grammar are directly involved in processing. Finally, it leads to a natural account of the incremental evolution of the language capacity. Key Words: evolution of language; generative grammar; parallel architecture; semantics; syntax.

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