Problem solving in science and the competence approach to theorizing in linguistics

The goals ofthis paper are to identify (in Section II) some general features of problem solving strategies in science, to discuss (in Section III) how Chomsky has employed two particularly popular discovery strategies in science, and to show (in Section IV) how these strategies inform Chomskyan linguistics. In Section IV I will discuss (1) how their employment in linguistics manifests features of scientific problem solving outlined in Section Il and (2) how an analysis in terms of those features suggests a natural account for many controversial aspects 0fChomsky’s methods. I will specifically examine how this analysis bears on Chomsky’s claims concerning competence theories’ centrality in psychology and their psychological reality. Although no methodological considerations bar Chomsky from tinkering with our notion ofpsychology, competence theories mus! eventually offer some fruitful empirical connections with psycholinguistics and that part of mainstream cognitive psychology concerned with language study tojustify that tinkering. After twenty years of research such connections have proven rare enough to raise important doubts about thejustification ofChomsl·:y’s claims for the place of competence theory in cognitive psychology {and for the psychological reality of the mechanism it describes). Although I will argue (contra man) tf C}iom.rk_y’s critics) that his methods are unexceptionable, still [contra Chomsky) his theories have not proven sufficiently robust empirically to justify his strong claims concerning their position in cognitive psychology.
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-5914.1986.tb00082.x
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