Friday, September 09, 2016

Falsification …

… Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning - Scientific American. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

These findings, along with theoretical linguistic work, led Chomsky and his followers to a wholesale revision of the notion of universal grammar during the 1980s. The new version of the theory, called principles and parameters, replaced a single universal grammar for all the world’s languages with a set of “universal” principles governing the structure of language. These principles manifested themselves differently in each language. An analogy might be that we are all born with a basic set of tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami) that interact with culture, history and geography to produce the present-day variations in world cuisine. The principles and parameters were a linguistic analogy to tastes. They interacted with culture (whether a child was learning Japanese or English) to produce today’s variation in languages as well as defined the set of human languages that were possible.
The problem from the start seems to have been that the theory was based on nothing more than speculative analogy, without any real search for evidence.

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