Richard Hudson dick at
Mon Oct 25 08:09:57 UTC 2010

Thanks Aya, Alex and Mark for your views. It's very odd for me to be 
defending Chomsky, since I've spent most of my life criticising him, but 
he's an ordinary human being just like the rest of us, with good points 
and bad points. When I said he couldn't be all wrong, I actually meant 
he wasn't all wrong - I can easily think of plenty of things that he did 
that were right, and inspired good work.

My personal list of achievements by Chomsky:
- His 1970 article on nominalisation, with its clear distinction between 
gerunds and nominalisations.
- His insights into the structure of the English auxiliary system (but 
not his morpheme-based analysis).
- His observations on island constraints in syntax - but not his 
- His contrast between knowledge (competence) and behaviour 
(performance) - but not his catch-all use of 'performance'.
- His idea of formal 'generative' grammar - but not his later 
abandonment of the substance.
I dare say I could add some more if I thought a bit longer. These are 
all things that he did which influenced my own (generally non-Chomskyan) 
work, and which I know have influenced plenty of other non-Chomskyans.

And I don't agree that the whole field is so dominated by his doctrines 
that other views can't be heard - just think of all the books and 
articles and university departments oriented towards other approaches, 
from non-Chomskyan formal theories such as HPSG and LFG, to 
non-Chomskyan informal work on discourse and the like. I'm sure some 
people on this list both disagree with Chomsky and have tenure.

Dick Hudson

Richard Hudson

More information about the Funknet mailing list