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« Smart Starlings | Main | What Evolved? (Part Two) »

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Sandeep Gautam

I recently wrote a post on my blog regarding the Chomsky-Skinner takes on the language acquistion (triggered by the chomsky-skinner post on this blog) and in that post I propose that while drives to control, empathise and instruct may have been instrumental for language production (one aspect of communication as outlined in your post above), the purpose of language comprehension (and the ability to do so) is to understand and predict the world.

Would love your commnets on my post the URL of which is http://the-mouse-trap.blogspot.com/2006/09/chomsky-vs-skinner-role-for.html.

A nice blog and kudos to you for taking on biggies like Chomsky and stressing the need for deemphasising the linguistic preoccupation with Grammar!

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THE BLOGGER RESPONDS

<> Oops. Is that what I've done? I do think grammar is really important.

And kudos back at Sandeep for posting such a full report on his blog. I take his central sentence to be, "I am unable to appreciate how concepts of Universal Grammar, however much relevant and innnate, could be a substitute for proper analysis of language acquisition in terms of an ability to not only master the grammar, but also the semantics."

the study of language acquisition has been an empirical science for about fifty years. Early on, in the 1960s, it was very much a syntax-driven inquiry as observers hoped to show that Chomsky's ideas about deep structure could explain early speech. This work established the insufficiency of syntax alone and for the past 30 or more years language acquisition studies have explored both syntax and semantics.

As for the "purpose of language," it is hard to assign purposes to so general a power that arose through an evolutionary process. I guess I can only urge visitors to stay tuned as this blog explores the pressures and issues behind the evolution of speech. In this case the purpose of our dialog is very much in accordance with Sandeep's idea. We want to understand the world a bit better.

By the way, Sandeep's own post tells a great story about a "speaking fast," ten days at a meditation camp where language (apart from some hymns) is denied. When people can speak to each other, everything suddenly seems so meaningful. Lots to contemplate in this parable.

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