Monday, January 28, 2008

You Say 'poverty of stimulus', I say 'innateness hypothesis'...

I’ve posted on the Innateness Hypothesis several times before and I just ran across an article by Geoffrey Pullum and Barbara Scholz reviewing that very topic: Empirical assessment of stimulus poverty arguments (pdf). Thought y'all might enjoy the read.

This article examines a type of argument for linguistic nativism that takes the following form: (i) a fact about some natural language is exhibited that allegedly could not be learned from experience without access to a certain kind of (positive) data; (ii) it is claimed that data of the type in question are not found in normal linguistic experience; hence (iii) it is concluded that people cannot be learning the language from mere exposure to language use. We analyze the components of this sort of argument carefully, and examine four exemplars, none of which hold up. We conclude that linguists have some additional work to do if they wish to sustain their claims about having provided support for linguistic nativism, and we offer some reasons for thinking that the relevant kind of future work on this issue is likely to further undermine the linguistic nativist position.


(HT: Language Evolution blog)


Anonymous said...


One response to this paper that you might find interesting is found here:

"Empirical re-assessment of stimulus poverty arguments"

Enjoy the read!

Chris said...

Cool, thanks for the citation. I've read some of Yang's book "Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language" and saw him talk a couple years ago at U. Maryland. He's one smart cookie, no doubt.