The Rosetta Stone
Last June I posted a three-part series titled "I'm Tired of Chomsky" in which I summarized Chomsky's theory, put forth an alternate theory, and reached some conclusions (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, All 3 in 1 PDF). At the end I found that there was some overlap in our ideas about language:
- Internal language: Although I do not accept Chomsky's theory of innate, elementary concepts, I do believe that humans enjoy a subjective, sensory knowledge that language can evoke but not reproduce.
- A Merge system: I disagree with Chomsky's idea that language is produced by combining symbols for elementary concepts, but I agree that language is created by combining words into a string. In my view, the words direct attention to evoked knowledge.
But, as the saying goes, you can't beat something with nothing. Chomsky and his many admirers have produced an elaborate system of analysis that has its limitations—how seriously can anybody take an account of language that does not explain how we are able to communicate knowledge?—but has the great virtue of actually existing. I have felt for some time that somebody ought to produce an account of how language can evoke not just images, but complete ideas that hang together.