In just a few years, children achieve a stable state of linguistic competence, making them effectively adults with respect to: understanding novel sentences, discerning relations of paraphrase and entailment, acceptability judgments, etc. One familiar account of the language acquisition process treats it as an induction problem of the sort that arises in any domain where the knowledge achieved is logically underdetermined by experience. This view highlights the cues that are available in the input to children, as well as childrens skills (...) in extracting relevant information and forming generalizations on the basis of the data they receive. Nativists, on the other hand, contend that language-learners project beyond their experience in ways that the input does not even suggest. Instead of viewing language acqusition as a special case of theory induction, nativists posit a UniversalGrammar, with innately specified linguistic principles of grammar formation. The nature versus nurture debate continues, as various poverty of stimulus arguments are challenged or supported by developments in linguistic theory and by findings from psycholinguistic investigations of child language. In light of some recent challenges to nativism, we rehearse old poverty-of stimulus arguments, and supplement them by drawing on more recent work in linguistic theory and studies of child language. (shrink)
What is common to all languages is notation, so UniversalGrammar can be understood as a system of notational types. Given that infants acquire language, it can be assumed to arise from some a priori mental structure. Viewing language as having the two layers of calculus and protocol, we can set aside the communicative habits of speakers. Accordingly, an analysis of notation results in the three types of Identifier, Modifier and Connective. Modifiers are further interpreted as Quantifiers and (...) Qualifiers. The resulting four notational types constitute the categories of UniversalGrammar. Its ontology is argued to consist in the underlying cognitive schema of Essence, Quantity, Quality and Relation. The four categories of UniversalGrammar are structured as polysemous fields and are each constituted as a radial network centred on some root concept which, however, need not be lexicalized. The branches spread out along troponymic vectors and together map out all possible lexemes. The notational typology of UniversalGrammar is applied in a linguistic analysis of the ‘parts of speech’ using the English language. The analysis constitutes a ‘proof of concept’ in (1) showing how the schema of UniversalGrammar is capable of classifying the so-called ‘parts of speech’, (2) presenting a coherent analysis of the verb, and (3) showing how the underlying cognitive schema allows for a sub-classification of the auxiliaries. (shrink)
In just a few years, children achieve a stable state of linguistic competence, making them effectively adults with respect to: understanding novel sentences, discerning relations of paraphrase and entailment, acceptability judgments, etc. One familiar account of the language acquisition process treats it as an induction problem of the sort that arises in any domain where the knowledge achieved is logically underdetermined by experience. This view highlights the 'cues' that are available in the input to children, as well as children's skills (...) in extracting relevant information and forming generalizations on the basis of the data they receive. Nativists, on the other hand, content that language-learners project beyond their experience in ways that the input does not even suggest. Instead of viewing language acqusition as a special case of theory induction, nativists posit a UniversalGrammar, with innately specified linguistic principles of grammar formation. The 'nature versus nurture' debate continues, as various "poverty of stimulus" arguments are challenged or supported by developments in linguistic theory and by findings from psycholinguistic investigations of child language. In light of some recent challenges to nativism, we rehearse old poverty-of stimulus arguments, and supplement them by drawing on more recent work in linguistic theory and studies of child language. (shrink)
The idea of a biologically evolved, universalgrammar with linguistic content is a myth, perpetuated by three spurious explanatory strategies of generative linguists. To make progress in understanding human linguistic competence, cognitive scientists must abandon the idea of an innate universalgrammar and instead try to build theories that explain both linguistic universals and diversity and how they emerge.
Language and Ontology: Linguistic Relativism (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis) vs. UniversalGrammarUniversal Ontology vs. Ontological Relativity Semiotics and Ontology: Annotated Bibliography of John Deely. First part: 1965-1998 Annotated Bibliography of John Deely. Second part: 1999-2010 The Rediscovery of John Poinsot (John of St. Thomas).
Christiansen & Chater (C&C) suggest that language is an organism, like us, and that our brains were not selected for UniversalGrammar (UG) capacity; rather, languages were selected for learnability with minimal trial-and-error experience by our brains. This explanation is circular: Where did our brain's selective capacity to learn all and only UG-compliant languages come from?
This commentary aims to highlight what exactly is controversial about the traditional UniversalGrammar (UG) hypothesis and what is not. There is widespread agreement that we are not born that language universals exist, that grammar exists, and that adults have domain-specific representations of language. The point of contention is whether we should assume that there exist unlearned syntactic universals that are arbitrary and specific to Language.
The paper takes a look at the history of the idea of universalgrammar and compares it with multilingual grammars, as formalized in the Grammatical Framework, GF. The constructivist idea of formalizing math- ematics piece by piece, in a weak logical framework, rather than trying to reduce everything to one single strong theory, is the model that guides the development of grammars in GF.
Differences of opinion between Epstein, Flynn & Martohardjono (1996) and some commentators can be traced to different interpretations of UniversalGrammar (UG) form or strategy. Potential full access to the form of linguistic universals in second language acquisition may be distinguished from access to UG strategy, but Epstein et al.'s dismissal of the Critical Age Hypothesis clouds their central argument.
UniversalGrammar (UG) can be interpreted as a constraint on the form of possible grammars (hypothesis space) or as a constraint on acquisition strategies (selection procedures). In this response to Herschensohn we reiterate the position outlined in Epstein et al. (1996a, r), that in the evaluation of L2 acquisition as a UG- constrained process the former (possible grammars/ knowledge states) is critical, not the latter. Selection procedures, on the other hand, are important in that they may have a (...) bearing on development in language acquisition. We raise the possibility that differences in first and second language acquisition pertaining to both attainment of the end-state and course of development may derive from differences in selection procedures. We further suggest that for these reasons age effects in the attainment of nativelike proficiency must necessarily be separated from UG effects. (shrink)
In our opinion, the discontinuity between extant human and nonhuman minds is much broader and deeper than most researchers admit. We are happy to report that Evans & Levinson's (E&L's) target article strongly corroborates our unpopular hypothesis, and that the comparative evidence, in turn, bolsters E&L's provocative argument. Both a UniversalGrammar and the between human and nonhuman minds turn out to be modern myths.
In this paper, through Hegel’s account of the predicative judgment in the Greater Logic, I develop an immanent, presuppositionless deduction ofgrammatical form from the very idea of language in general. In other words, I argue that Hegel’s account of the judgment can be read as a demonstrationof a truly universalgrammar through which any and all determinate thought must be expressed. In so doing, I seek to resolve the problem that linguistic contingency poses for systematic philosophy by deducing (...) a necessary linguistic form from a contingent linguistic content. (shrink)
This handbook provides a critical guide to the most central proposition in modern linguistics: the notion, generally known as UniversalGrammar, that a universal set of structural principles underlies the grammatical diversity of the world's languages. Part I considers the implications of UniversalGrammar for philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, and examines the history of the theory. Part II focuses on linguistic theory, looking at topics such as explanatory adequacy and how phonology (...) and semantics fit into UniversalGrammar. Parts III and IV look respectively at the insights derived from UG-inspired research on language acquisition, and at comparative syntax and language typology, while part V considers the evidence for UniversalGrammar in phenomena such as creoles, language pathology, and sign language. The book will be a vital reference for linguists, philosophers, and cognitive scientists. (shrink)
In this paper, through Hegel’s account of the predicative judgment in the Greater Logic, I develop an immanent, presuppositionless deduction ofgrammatical form from the very idea of language in general. In other words, I argue that Hegel’s account of the judgment can be read as a demonstrationof a truly universal (rather than empirically “common” or “general”) grammar through which any and all determinate thought must be expressed. In so doing, I seek to resolve the problem that linguistic contingency (...) poses for systematic philosophy by deducing a necessary linguistic form from a contingent linguistic content. (shrink)
Our response takes advantage of the wide-ranging commentary to clarify some aspects of our original proposal and augment others. We argue against the generative critics of our coevolutionary program for the language sciences, defend the use of close-to-surface models as minimizing cross-linguistic data distortion, and stress the growing role of stochastic simulations in making generalized historical accounts testable. These methods lead the search for general principles away from idealized representations and towards selective processes. Putting cultural evolution central in understanding language (...) diversity makes learning fundamental in the cognition of language: increasingly powerful models of general learning, paired with channelled caregiver input, seem set to manage language acquisition without recourse to any innate Understanding why human language has no clear parallels in the animal world requires a cross-species perspective: crucial ingredients are vocal learning (for which there are clear non-primate parallels) and an intention-attributing cognitive infrastructure that provides a universal base for language evolution. We conclude by situating linguistic diversity within a broader trend towards understanding human cognition through the study of variation in, for example, human genetics, neurocognition, and psycholinguistic processing. (shrink)
This interdisciplinary book considers the relationship between language and thought from a philosophical perspective, drawing both on the philosophical study of language and the purely formal study of grammar, and arguing that the two should align. The claim is that grammar provides homo sapiens with the ability to think in certain grammatical ways and that this in turn explains the vast cognitive powers of human beings. Evidence is considered from biology, the evolution of language, language disorders, and linguistic (...) phenomena. (shrink)
Grammar is now widely regarded as a substantially biological phenomenon, yet the problem of language evolution remains a matter of controversy among Linguists, Cognitive Scientists, and Evolutionary Theorists alike. In this paper, I present a new theoretical argument for one particular hypothesis—that a Language Acquisition Device of the sort first posited by Noam Chomsky might have evolved via the so-called Baldwin Effect . Close attention to the workings of that mechanism, I argue, helps to explain a previously mysterious feature (...) of the Language Acquisition Device—the sheer variety of languages it allows the child to learn—thereby revealing a far stronger case than adherents of the hypothesis have previously supposed. A further unheralded consequence of the hypothesis is a conceptual shift in the Chomskyan understanding of language, wherein the essentially public nature of language is freshly emphasised. This has the effect of bringing the Chomskyan view into closer accord with Saussurean accounts of language, as well as with recent trends in evolutionary theory. (shrink)
I will argue that the logical form of illocutionary acts imposes certain formal constraints on the logical structure of a possible natural language as well as on the mind of competent speakers. In particular, certain syntactic, semantic and pragmatic features are universal because they are indispensable. Moreover, in order to perform and understand illocutionary acts, competent speakers and hearers must have certain mental states and abilities which are in general traditionally related to the faculty of reason. (edited).
Are there universal transcendent features that any natural language must possess in order to provide for its human speakers adequate means of expression and of communication of their conceptual thoughts? As Frege, Austin and Searle pointed out, complete speech acts of the type called illocutionary acts, and not isolated propositions, are the primary units of meaning in the use and comprehension of language. Thus it is in the very performance of illocutionary acts that speakers express and communicate their thoughts. (...) For this reason, speech act theory contributes to the theory of linguistic universals in formulating the necessary and universal laws governing the successful performance and satisfaction of illocutionary acts in language use and comprehension. I will argue that the logical form of illocutionary acts imposes certain formal constraints on the logical structure of a possible natural language as well as on the mind of competent speakers. In particular, certain syntactic, semantic and pragmatic features are universal because they are indispensable. Moreover, in order to perform and understand illocutionary acts, competent speakers and hearers must have certain mental states and abilities which are in general traditionally related to the faculty of reason.Há características transcendentes universais que qualquer linguagem natural tem que possuir para fornecer meios adequados de expressão e de comunicação de pensamentos conceituais aos seus falantes humanos? Como Frege, Austin e Searle mostraram, atos de fala completos do tipo denominado atos ilocucionários, e não proposições isoladas, são as unidades primárias de significado no uso e compreensão da linguagem. Assim, é no exato desempenho dos atos ilocucionários que os falantes expressam e comunicam os seus pensamentos. Por esta razão, a teoria dos atos de fala contribui para a teoria dos universais lingüísticos, formulando as leis necessárias e universais que governam o desempenho bem-sucedido e a satisfação dos atos ilocucionários no uso e compreensão da linguagem. Eu argumentarei que a forma lógica dos atos ilocucionários impõe certas restrições formais na estrutura lógica de uma possível linguagem natural como também na mente de falantes competentes. Em particular, certos aspectos sintáticos, semânticos e pragmáticos são universais porque eles são indispensáveis. Além disso, a fim de desempenhar e entender os atos ilocucionários, os falantes e ouvintes competentes têm que ter certos estados mentais e habilidades que estão, em geral, tradicionalmente relacionadas à faculdade de razão. (shrink)
Issues concerning UG access for L2 acquisition as formulated by Epstein et al. are misleading as well as poorly discussed. UG accessibility can only be fully evaluated with respect to the steady state gram mar reached by the learner. The steady state for LI learners is self evidently the adult grammar in the speech community. For L2 learners, however, the steady state is not obvious. Yet, without its clear characterization, debates concerning stages of L2 acquisition and direct and indirect (...) UG accessibility cannot be resolved. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the possibility that machine learning approaches to naturallanguage processing being developed in engineering-oriented computational linguistics may be able to provide specific scientific insights into the nature of human language. We argue that, in principle, machine learning results could inform basic debates about language, in one area at least, and that in practice, existing results may offer initial tentative support for this prospect. Further, results from computational learning theory can inform arguments carried on within linguistic theory (...) as well. (shrink)
This paper describes the main drawbacks of extrapolating Noam Chomsky’s hypothesis about the existence of a UniversalGrammar of language to the realm of morality as illustrated in Marc Hauser’s 2006 volume, Moral Minds.
Jones introduces an intricate machinery of kin classification that overcomes limitations of previous accounts. I question whether such a machinery is plausible. Because individuals never need to learn the entire spectrum of kin terminology, they could rely on data-driven learning. The complexity of Jones's machinery for kin classification casts doubt on the existence of innate structures that cover the complete linguistic domain.
Despite problems with statistical significance, ancillary hypotheses, and integration into an overall view of cognition, Grodzinsky's demotion of Broca's area to a mechanism for tracking moved constituents is intrinsically plausible and fits a realistic picture of how syntax works.