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Daniel Everett interview

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Hi folks. A bit of shameless self-promotion here, but I hope you'll find that it's worth it.


I just finished an interview with Daniel Everett, a linguist with Illinois State University who has attracted a storm of controversy with this theory of language that contradicts Chomsky's Universal Language. The implications are profound for cognitive science, and for defining what makes us human.


Machines Like Us interviews Daniel Everett


I'd also like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous new year.


All the best,


Norm Nason

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Interesting interview, D.Everett saying that:

"language is not innate, that there is no language instinct, and that talk of Universal Grammar or a Language Organ doesn't match up well with the evidence from evolution, language development, or data from the world's languages" is fully right


I always thought that Chomsky's theory is a bunch of malarkey, about Transformational Grammar from Britannica:

"also called Transformational-generative Grammar, system of language analysis that recognizes the relationship among the various elements of a sentence and among the possible sentences of a language and uses processes or rules (some of which are called transformations) to express these relationships. For example, transformational grammar relates the active sentence “John read the book” with its corresponding passive, “The book was read by John.” The statement “George saw Mary” is related to the corresponding questions, “Whom [or who] did George see?” and “Who saw Mary?” Although sets such as these active and passive sentences appear to be very different on the surface (i.e., in such things as word order), a transformational grammar tries to show that in the “underlying structure” (i.e., in their deeper relations to one another), the sentences are very similar. Transformational grammar assigns a “deep structure” and a “surface structure” to show the relationship of such sentences. Thus, “I know a man who flies planes” can be considered the surface form of a deep structure approximately like “I know a man. The man flies airplanes.” The notion of deep structure can be especially helpful in explaining ambiguous utterances; e.g., “Flying airplanes can be dangerous” may have a deep structure, or meaning, like “Airplanes can be dangerous when they fly” or “To fly airplanes can be dangerous.”


The most widely discussed theory of transformational grammar was proposed by U.S. linguist Noam Chomsky in 1957. His work contradicted earlier tenets of structuralism by rejecting the notion that every language is unique. The use of transformational grammar in language analysis assumes a certain number of formal and substantive universals.


Let's take sentences: “I know a man who flies planes”, "I know a man. The man flies airplanes.", first is supposedly "surface" and second are a "deep"

but in fact second sentences are saying exactly the same what first sentence, they aren't very different on the surface, they are practically THE SAME ON THE SURFACE, there is no any "deep"

conception of Chomsky is idiotic as same as his political views - he is a sympathizer of anarcho-syndicalism


In my opinion, language it is the same what illustrated dictionary, it is set of pictures-words (oldest language systems like Egyptian hieroglyphs are showing that), no more. Using of language consist in the juxtaposition of words from the dictionary - similarly like addition and subtraction in mathematics. Grammar is less important, it is another dictionary, a set of patterns how to juxtapose words from first dictionary, these patterns are conventional and steering only by economy of usage - grammar or we should say better many grammars arose as cultural custom. In most simple language there is no grammar, language consist in juxtaposition of pictures-words from main dictionary.

of course addition and subtraction aren't innate, as same as language (and grammar)

Edited by PAL/SECAM
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