Linguistics Department

Colloquium - Geoffrey K. Pullum (School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Acquisition, University of Edinburgh)

The Linguistics and Philosophy of Language Acquisition

Mon, February 12, 2018 | CLA 1.302B

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

For five decades, discussions of the view known as linguistic nativism have woven together topics in generative linguistics and rationalist philosophy. Syntactic research is claimed to reveal a "universal grammar" that would be unlearnable from linguistic experience and hence provides a compelling case for the existence of "innate ideas." It is quite unusual for empirical work in the "special sciences" to produce results that reorient traditional philosophical discussions It therefore behooves syntacticians to ensure that their results are both copious and solid. I review some of the load-bearing syntactic results cited in the debate, and argue that they will not support the necessary weight. Foremost among the latter is an argument developed 40 years ago in this department, here at the University of Texas.

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