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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Co-Evolution Idea Won Big in Barcelona | Main | Brain Changes for Language »


Neil Cohn

I've been doing my own thoughts on Lang. Evo. lately, but I'm again compelled to chime in to say that Jackendoff's Parallel Architecture is commiserate with all of these sentiments. Unlike Chomsky's generative grammar, it has a very robust semantic component that syntax functions to express. That is, syntax evolved to express conceptual structure — which is exactly what you're talking about.

In fact, in Foundations of Language he even paints an evolutionary picture for syntax without the "magical burst of recursion."
BLOGGER: Browsers on this site should check out the commenter's interesting blog The Visual Linguist.


As a non-linguist, I am perhaps missing something, but I fail to see how the description and argument above negates Chomsky's fundamental contributions to syntactic analysis (and for that matter, generative grammar). One thing in particular that I wish to note is that Chomsky, unlike Pinker et al, is not an adaptationist (at least as far as I know, and as per Jerry Fodor's claims).
BLOGGER: Sorry, I should have made the point more clear. Linguistic studies have always attended to phonology, semantics, syntax, and historical change. Under Chomsky's leadership, those other elements were not forgotten but syntax became king of the mountain with other issues subservient. Chomsky's famous definition of language as consisting of all and only the sentences that can be generated by the language's syntactic rules expresses the new attitude. Meaning disappears from this definition. In Barcelona it was clear that that attitude no longer prevails.

It is true that Chomsky is not an adaptationist, but that fact doesn't excuse him from having to have theories that make biological sense.

Dr. Arlene H. Patterson

Please give me a sentence that exemplifies embedding/recursion.
BLOGGER: A noun phrase, like a cherry on an ice cream sundae, can be embedded in a sentence. But is it recursive as well? Bickerton, creating controversy all the while, says no recusion is required for embedding.

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