Chomsky reconsidered

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

One thought on “Chomsky reconsidered

  1. Chomsky’s work was most valuable as a correction to the Behaviorist “you learn language by stimulus response when you babble things almost like words”. He made it clear that we are born with an already-wired-in capacity for language, that is much more specific than the Pavlov-like stimulus-response type of learning. In turn, Behaviorism, flawed as it was, clearly improved on the Freudian school that came before it.

    None of which means Chomsky’s ideas were correct, though. Just less wrong than what came before him.

Leave a comment.