Linguists at War
THE SOURCE: “Angry Words” by Tom Bartlett, in The Chronicle Review, April 6, 2012.
Noam Chomsky is well known as a left-wing public intellectual, but in the academic world he is renowned as the father of the foundational modern theory about human language.
Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar, forged in the 1960s, has two central tenets: There is a single underlying structure for all human languages, and humans have this structural information hard-wired in their brains at birth. But many of Chomsky’s arguments are elusively theoretical. So when he published a paper in 2002 that seemed to say that the distinctive feature of human communication is “recursion,” a critic pounced.
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