Saying A and meaning not-A

Mon Apr 21 09:55:41 UTC 1997

** Esa Itkonen asked me to post the following for him. Please
   direct all correspondence to him at eitkonen at **

   - Timo Haukioja


It has been a central claim on the generative side that
language-acquisition can take place on the basis of NO evidence. As
McWhinney points out, Pullum has shown that in a representative case
this is not true; the evidence is there. To this Everett replies
that it does not matter. The really important fact (i.e. 'fact') is
that language-acquisition concentrates on syntax only; of course,
some people might say that semantics is involved too, but these are
difficult questions which should be discussed in some other context.

What is going on here? If generativists claim that the evidence is
not there, surely it is relevant to find out that it IS there. (This
means that the original claim is FALSE.) It is also relevant to
learn that the semantics ALWAYS there, i.e. that a purely formal
learning never occurs. (For arguments, see the section 'Learning
forms without meanings' in my 'Concerning the generative paradigm',
Journal of Linguistics 1996.) By taking into account semantics and
some general analogical capacity, cases that seem to support the
innateness hypothesis can be explained away (see Itkonen & J.
Haukioja: 'A rehabilitation of analogy in syntax (and elsewhere)' in
the 1997 Kertesz book.)

I repeat: What is going on here? I tell you what. The generativists
claimed that language-acquisition can take place without evidence
and that it is about syntax. Both claims have turned out to be
false. They know it, but they can't admit it.

Esa Itkonen

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