Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Reading Group Sing-Along:

Back in October, when I originally posted the forward projections on the reading group’s upcoming choices, I had left the exact selections for the coming week a bit on the vague side, just referring to the Language Log archives on the general theme we would be discussing, which relates to an ongoing debate between Pinker, Jackendoff and Chomsky. L. Magee did, though, piece together a specific list of recommendations for the group, which I thought I’d post in case anyone is curious exactly what we’ll be discussing next Monday.

L. Magee’s suggestions are:

Perhaps start here:

Mark Liberman’s outline of the Pinker, Jackendoff, Chomsky discussion at Language Log

Then:

Chomsky et al: The Faculty of Language

Pinker et al: The Faculty of Language: What’s Special About It?

Chomsky et al: The Evolution of the Language Faculty

and Pinker & Jackendoff’s Reply

Also of interest:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002423.html
http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/index.html
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~mnkylab/

We workshopped a number of suggestions for where to go next – with the general idea of staying with the linguistics theme for a while longer. We’ll have an email round to solidify these suggestions, and then I’ll post another forecast list…

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3 responses to “Reading Group Sing-Along:

  1. tndal December 4, 2006 at 9:40 am

    Amazing that there is a discussion, when it is impossible to prove/disprove anything in this debate. Yet Chomsky et al get paid to pursue such nonsense?

    Besides, I thought Chomsky’s static armchair theoretical models of human language had been supplanted by Luc Steele’s experimental models of how language develops:

    http://arti.vub.ac.be/~steels/

    and

    http://www.csl.sony.fr/General/Publications/All.php

    IMO Chomsky’s an old guy on the way out and Steels has the new experimentally proven ideas.

  2. N Pepperell December 4, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I’ll have a look at your suggestions when I have more than a minute – thanks for that.

    We are of course folks looking in on this debate from the outside, trying to understand why the debate arouses such passions – a question that actually becomes more interesting, the more empirically weak the claims… ;-)

    Just on an abstract conceptual level, though, there are reasons it could be hypothetically worthwhile to pursue a debate when nothing can currently be proven or disproven. The two that occur off the top of my head are (1) if the debate can begin to clarify how one might – at some future point, with better technology, for example – prove or disprove competing claims; and (2) if the debate can generate conceptual frameworks or metaphors that are useful to practitioners researching in the field, even if it seems unlikely that anyone will be able to establish the validity of the metaphors experimentally…

    This doesn’t, of course, take away from your base argument that a very different line of empirical research might just obviate the whole debate. I’ll remain agnostic on this for the time being, as I can’t comment sensibly until I’ve read your materials and backtracked the discussion a bit…

  3. L Magee December 5, 2006 at 7:32 pm

    G Gollings, please take note – the first of these links above uses a heavily skinned version of Drupal…

    The cross-over with AI and knowledge representation is indeed one of the motivations for our amateur dabbling in cognitive science – thanks to tndal for these links.

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