Date: Sat, 23 Sep 1995 18:51:58 EDT
From: Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MOREHEAD-ST.EDU
Subject: Re: One more judgment please
These sentences are all prototypical of strings that have been the
basis for recent concerns in GB or PP or whatever you call it, which
support the various government and binding principles. Reminds me
of the Specified Subject Constraint argument that Chomsky used to
try to prove Piaget's view of how language is acquired is wrong in the
My response is, I am not going to be a test subject for your test, unless
you tell me what your purpose is. It's the informed consent thing,
which my institution's IRB is giving me a lot of crap about, even
though I point out to them that US Code regulations exempt this kind
of survey/interview from regulation. But that's another battle.
Some of them I think are not anything someone would utter. The
acquisition question is, what is the source of the language knowledge
that leads the language learner to conclude that these sentences are
ungrammatical. Certainly, there is no evidence in the environment
or stimulus. Thus we have the poverty of stimulus argument. SO
we must posit some innate principles.
Wrong question. The acquisition problem is not one of why a learner
does not do something, but one of what motivates
the learner to do what she does. The learner would never produce
these utterances because no one uses them. That simple. Has nothing
to do with a biological endowment ruling them out.
I am not ruling out a biological organ for language, an LAD.
I am only questioning what Chomsky thinks is part of it.
For all of his insights, he is wrong on this point.
PS: I think Dan Slobin agrees.
Terry Lynn Irons t.irons[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]morehead-st.edu
Voice Mail: (606) 783-5164
Snail Mail: UPO 604 Morehead, KY 40351