Chomskian linguistics and human uniqueness

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 10 14:59:16 UTC 2010

What precisely does the dramatic metaphor "hard-wired" mean in this context
anyway?  It would seem to denote, logically, only a genetic capacity
expressed through processes within the brain, but it seems to be invested
with all sorts of elusive connotations.

Or is it just another successful public-relations term that I'm reading too
much into?


On Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 12:54 AM, Robin Hamilton <
robin.hamilton3 at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Chomskian linguistics and human uniqueness
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> From: <ronbutters at AOL.COM>
> > Generally, science involves worrying about truth rather than being
> > offended by the arrogance of the or unsubstantiated suspicions about the
> > motives of the scientist.
> I'm with Joel in being skeptical as to Chomsky's vision of humanity
> hard-wired for language, but more to the point, I've always failed to see
> how it's *relevant to Generative Grammar.  Whether or not the hypothesis is
> "scientific", it's beside the point.  It does, however, link in with
> Chomsky's universalist view of linguistic processes, which strikes me as
> savouring more of Platonic idealism than scientific empiricism.
> More to the point, I'm not sure that Chomsky's work allows any serious grip
> on semantics, and in this it could be seen to diverge radically from de
> Saussure to the extent that it heads in the opposite direction.
> Halliday, on the other hand ...
> Wilson, what did you think of Halliday?  That you kept the souvenir booklet
> suggests you were impressed.
> Enquiring minds want to know ...
> Robin
> > ------Original Message------
> > From: Joel S. Berson
> > Sender: ADS-L
> > To: ADS-L
> > ReplyTo: ADS-L
> > Subject: Re: [ADS-L] Chomskian linguistics and human uniqueness
> > Sent: Sep 9, 2010 7:58 PM
> >
> > At 9/9/2010 04:58 PM, Ronald Butters wrote:
> >>Chomsky would say that they are all restatements of each other, and,
> >>in turn, restatements of his work, if they are any good.
> >
> > I'm sure he would.  That's why I would be quite happy to see
> > Chomskian linguistics gone out of favor.  :-)
> >
> > I have no knowledge of this subject.  But that humans are hard-wired
> > for language, and other primates not, I am very skeptical of.  (I
> > don't know if Chomsky makes the second claim.)  It strikes me as the
> > dying gasp of "scientists" who need to see humans as unique because
> > of one single biologically-established capability that they have all
> > of and other primates none of.  I am also suspicious about assertions
> > that something or other is hard-wired in the human brain, considering
> > its demonstrated great capacity for accommodation (in particular, in
> > the brain-damaged).
> >
> > Joel
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