Lise Menn, Linguistics, CU Boulder lmenn at CLIPR.COLORADO.EDU
Fri Apr 25 15:22:42 UTC 1997

Gopnik has retracted the single 'grammar gene' position that she
held earlier, which was the point I was intending to respond to.  I don't
think that _that_ view is currently held by anyone prominent in this debate.

Nice quote Liz forwarded showing the dim view that Wexler takes of
plasticity. He and others are indeed strong adherents of 'genetically
programmed maturation' of grammar.
        They are practically forced into that position because of their
abhorrence of any consideration of frequency and gradience of response -
two innocent casualties of the Chomskyan revolution.
        I hope BLS 22 comes out soon; there are some relevant papers in
there from a panel on innateness, including Pullum's already legendary
slasher attack, a fine reflective paper by Bowerman, an amazing
parameter-setting article by Ted Gibson, and one of mine with longitudinal
examples showing what I think is solid counterevidence against a general
maturational account of language acquisition.  But I also pointed out that
those of us who think language can be learned have not yet dealt with the
complexity of what the child has to be able to do in order to learn from
the incoming material - specifically, to be able to recognize whether an
adult response is just a felicitous conversational next turn, a recast
correcting grammar, a paraphrase for clarity, correction for level of
politeness, and other possibilities including several of the above
simultaneously, and to use that information in conjunction with updating
his/her frequency of occurrence information.  I don't think that we have
-postulated a simpler or more parsimonious child than Wexler has - I just
think ours is more realistic.

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