Chomsky1 by prof. nazir malik

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Chomsky1 by prof. nazir malik

  1. 1. Chomsky ’ s Innatism
  2. 2. Behaviourist position (Skinner, 1950s) <ul><li>Main behaviourist claim: all learning, including language learning, is the product of habit formation. </li></ul><ul><li>We learn through imitation and repetition. </li></ul><ul><li>Emphasis on the importance of the observable in any theory claiming to be scientific (empirical view). </li></ul><ul><li>Since only behaviour is observable, we must study learning by observing behaviour patterns. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Behaviourist position <ul><li>We learn through: </li></ul><ul><li>Imitation + reinforcement (praise or success in communication) = habit formation . </li></ul><ul><li>According to this view Stimulus-Response-Reinforcement IS the learning mechanism. </li></ul><ul><li>Language is considered ‘ verbal behaviour ’ . </li></ul><ul><li>Children practise and repeat what they hear, and in this way learn their L1. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Who is Chomsky? <ul><li>You ’ ve probably heard of him already </li></ul><ul><li>Noam Chomsky, 1928-present, American </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Professor in Linguistics at MIT </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(more famous outside our field as a political commentator) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Chomsky is a syntactician </li></ul><ul><li>His work on syntax led him to believe language is innate </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky is a theorist, not an experimenter </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But others have applied his theories </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. What is Chomsky ’ s theory? <ul><li>An innatist theory </li></ul><ul><li>“ Nature” over “Nurture” </li></ul><ul><li>According to Chomsky, crucial parts of the human language ability are built into the brain – part of our biology, programmed into our genes </li></ul>
  6. 6. Chomsky V Skinner <ul><li>Remember Skinner? </li></ul><ul><li>Late 1950s: environment-only theories of language acquisition in the ascendant </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky (1959) reviewed Skinner ’ s book Verbal Behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky found flaws in Skinner ’ s mechanism </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky argued that environment-only mechanisms couldn ’ t possibly account for language acquisition </li></ul>
  7. 7. Evidence for Chomskyan innatism (and against environment-only mechanisms) How so?
  8. 8. The brain: missing evidence? <ul><li>Neuroscience could be convincing … </li></ul><ul><li>… but our knowledge of the brain is not that advanced. </li></ul><ul><li>We cannot see the proposed language structures </li></ul><ul><li>Even if we could, we could not establish that these structures were innate </li></ul>
  9. 9. Creativity <ul><li>Language is CREATIVE </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We can produce and understand an infinite range of novel grammatical sentences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Children do not imitate a fixed repertoire of sentences </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Chomsky: creativity is not explicable if language is learnt just from the environment </li></ul>
  10. 10. Degeneracy of the data <ul><li>The child ’ s language data is degenerate </li></ul><ul><li>Ungrammatical utterances are frequent and are not marked out as “wrong” </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore it is impossible to deduce the grammar of a language, if your only input data is utterances from the environment </li></ul>
  11. 11. Poverty of the stimulus <ul><li>Chomskyan syntax: more complex than people had previously thought syntax to be! </li></ul><ul><li>The grammar of a sentence can ’ t be deduced from its surface form </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The schoolchildren were difficult to teach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The schoolchildren were eager to learn </li></ul></ul><ul><li>So environmental language data is insufficient: grammar can ’ t be learned from it </li></ul>
  12. 12. Misleading feedback <ul><li>Adults correct children for truth, not grammaticality </li></ul><ul><li>… so the feedback data children receive does not actually tell them how well they are doing </li></ul><ul><li>Misleading feedback makes it even harder for children to learn grammar </li></ul>
  13. 13. Evidence from Creoles <ul><li>Pidgin: simple language that arise in contact situations </li></ul><ul><li>Creole: a fully complex language descended from a pidgin </li></ul><ul><li>The grammar of a Creole is created by children as they learn it </li></ul><ul><li>This is evidence that this grammar comes from some innate source </li></ul>
  14. 14. Universal features of language <ul><li>Languages vary greatly, but have some common features </li></ul><ul><li>Example: nouns and verbs </li></ul><ul><li>Example: structure dependency </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Grammatical rules rely on the structure of the sentence, not the surface order of the words </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Structure dependency <ul><li>Mr Smith was a good man </li></ul><ul><li>Was Mr Smith a good man? </li></ul><ul><li>Mr Smith was a good man </li></ul><ul><li>Man good a was Smith Mr? </li></ul><ul><li>Joe was a good man </li></ul><ul><li>A Joe was good man? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Universals explained <ul><li>Universals unexpected if language is learnt from the environment alone </li></ul><ul><li>Universals due to innate language </li></ul><ul><li>Or due to something else? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Universal functions of language </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Universal forms of cognition </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. The theory: innate language knowledge <ul><li>If children don ’ t/can ’ t learn the rules of grammar from the language around them in their environment … </li></ul><ul><li>… then these rules must have been in-born </li></ul><ul><li>This explains all the difficulties we found with environment-only acquisition theories </li></ul>
  18. 18. Key points of Chomskyan Theory The Essentials
  19. 19. Innatism <ul><li>What is innate? </li></ul><ul><li>Chomsky: the essential core of grammar is innate </li></ul><ul><li>A generative grammar that can produce an infinite range of novel sentences </li></ul><ul><li>The innate system for language learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Language Acquisition Device (LAD) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Universal Grammar (UG) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ bioprogram ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ language organ ” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ language instinct ” </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. Inside the Chomskyan brain Autonomy
  21. 21. Is language autonomous? <ul><li>Chomsky thinks that language is autonomous in the mind </li></ul><ul><li>This means that language (i.e. UG) is a separate system in the brain ’ s architecture </li></ul><ul><li>It is connected to, but does not interact extensively with, other sorts of thought </li></ul>
  22. 22. (The diagram)
  23. 23. Maturation <ul><li>Chomsky ’ s theory is a maturationist theory </li></ul><ul><li>Language acquisition runs to an innate biological timetable </li></ul><ul><li>UG matures in the brain and is slowly released in predetermined stages as the child grows </li></ul><ul><li>This linguistic maturation is analogous to the sexual maturation we go through at puberty … </li></ul><ul><li>… and is just as involuntary! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Only the younger ones were at the right stage of maturation </li></ul></ul>
  24. 24. Language is species-specific <ul><li>UG and the language system only occur in the human brain </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore, no other animals can acquire a human language </li></ul><ul><li>But is this solely due to their lesser intelligence? </li></ul><ul><li>Can chimps learn language? We ’ ll look at this next term! </li></ul>
  25. 25. Evolution?? <ul><li>How did UG get there in the first place? </li></ul><ul><li>There is much disagreement on this </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chomsky: not by natural selection! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chomsky, Bickerton: a single lucky language mutation (a “ Hopeful Monster ” ) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pinker: by normal natural selection </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. Universal Grammar <ul><li>But what exactly is Universal Grammar? </li></ul><ul><li>What knowledge does it contain? </li></ul><ul><li>How does it function in the process of language acquisition? </li></ul>… we ’ ll try to find out next time

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