Chomsky Chats About Language Evolution

If you go to this page at Linguistic Inquiry (house organ of the Chomsky school), you’ll find this blurb:

Episode 3: Samuel Jay Keyser, Editor-in-Chief of Linguistic Inquiry, has shared a campus with Noam Chomsky for some 40-odd years via MIT’s Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. The two colleagues recently sat down in Mr. Chomsky’s office to discuss ideas on language evolution and the human capacity for understanding the complexities of the universe. The unedited conversation was recorded on September 11, 2009.

I’ve neither listened to the podcast nor read the transcript—both linked available here. But who knows, maybe you will. FWIW, I was strongly influenced by Chomsky in my undergraduate years, but the lack of a semantic theory was troublesome. Yes, there was co-called generative semantics, but that didn’t look like semantics to me, it looked like syntax.

Then I found Syd Lamb’s stuff on stratificational grammar & that looked VERY interesting. Why? For one thing, the diagrams were intriguing. For another, Lamb used the same formal constructs for phonology, morphology, syntax and (what little) semantics (he had). That elegance appealed to me. Still does, & I’ve figured out how to package a very robust semantics into Lamb’s diagrammatic notation. But that’s another story.

3 thoughts on “Chomsky Chats About Language Evolution”

  1. I don’t know about anyone else, but, for me at least, the podcast doesn’t seem to work. Transcript is fine though.

  2. It’s an interesting summary of the development of the field of Linguistics. It’s good to know that Chomsky thinks that Language Acquisition can be explained in a way that’s interpretable to humans.
    The topic of abstraction is still a live debate, however. Consider the neutral models of Simon Kirby and Tom Griffiths in comparison to the vastly more complex embodied robots of Luc Steels.
    Here’s a recent video of Luc Steels talking about his approach with a cute video of two robots arguing about the names of brightly coloured bricks:

    Slightly weakened by Steels’ admission that he doesn’t really know what the robots are saying and he has to play the role of field linguist to interpret them.

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