Tuesday, January 15, 2002

CHOMSKY THE SCIENTIST WATCH: Here's an article about a book by a guy, Mark Baker, "whose dissertation was supervised by Dr. Chomsky." Who claims to have found evidence for Chomsky's universal grammer rules. There are of course dissenters:

Dr. Baker's work is by no means universally accepted. Dr. Robert Van Valin, a professor of linguistics at the State University of New York at Buffalo, says the findings rest on a questionable assumption: that there is a universal grammar.

"What they're doing in that whole program is taking English-like structures and putting the words or parts of words of other languages in those structures and then discovering that they're just like English," he said.

Dr. Karin E. Michelson, an associate professor of linguistics at SUNY Buffalo, who also disagrees with the Chomskyan approach, said after reviewing Dr. Baker's Mohawk work that some of the sentences he selected seemed artificial.

Dr. Baker acknowledged that some of the longer words in his study were "carefully engineered," but he said the parameter still held up using more common examples of Mohawk. He said using only examples from real discourse restricted the kind of analysis that linguists could do.

I know very little about linguistics, but I think that was always the word on the scientist street: that Chomsky's linguistics had a hideous English-language bias, which is what I think the guy from the SUNY Buffalo quoted above is referring to.

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