Isis 107 (1):49-73 (2016)

Authors
Gregory Radick
University of Leeds
Abstract
A familiar story about mid-twentieth-century American psychology tells of the replacement of behaviorism by cognitive science. Between these two, however, lay a borderland, muddy and much trespassed-upon. This paper relocates the origins of the Chomskyan program in linguistics there. Following his introduction of transformational generative grammar, Chomsky mounted a highly publicized attack on behaviorist psychology. Yet when he first developed that approach to grammar, he was a defender of behaviorism. His anti-behaviorism emerged only in the course of what became a systematic repudiation of the work of the Cornell linguist C. F. Hockett. In the name of the positivist Unity-of-Science movement, Hockett had synthesized an approach to grammar based on statistical communication theory; a behaviorist view of language acquisition in children as a process of association and analogy; and an interest in uncovering the Darwinian origins of language. In criticizing Hockett on grammar, Chomsky came to engage gradually and critically with the whole Hockettian synthesis. Situating Chomsky thus within his own disciplinary matrix suggests lessons for students of disciplinary politics generally and – famously with Chomsky – the place of political discipline within a scientific life
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DOI 10.1086/686177
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