Assignment Paper LINGMET Philosophy of Language University of Bergen Spring 2012
Introduction In this paper I will explain what Chomsky means by the phrase “The Poverty of the Stimulus”, based on his article “Knowledge of Language as a Focus of Inquiry”, and shortly present empiricist critique that has been made against this idea. The Poverty of the Stimulus Noam Chomsky presented the term Poverty of Stimulus in his work “Rules and Representations” in 1980, as a part of his theory of Universal Grammar (UG). Chomsky’s Universal Grammar is a linguistic theory seeking to explain what constitutes knowledge of language, how knowledge of language is acquired, and how knowledge of language is put to use. (Chomsky, Knowledge of Language as a Focus of Enquiry, 1986, p. 16). Chomsky states: It is concerned with those aspects of form and meaning that are determined by the “language faculty”… The nature of this faculty is the subject matter of a general theory of linguistic structure that aims to discover the framework of principles and elements common to attainable human languages … One may think of this faculty as a “language acquisition device”, an innate component of the human mind that yields a particular language through interaction with presented experience, a device that converts experience into a system of knowledge attained: knowledge of one or another language. (Chomsky, 1986) In other words, Chomsky’s idea is that the human brain contains an innate or natural capacity of learning and producing language, through experience only, without receiving direct teaching from others. One of the problems that are tackled in the UG theory is the question of how children are able to understand and use computationally complex rules without any direct instructions in the correctness of these rules or how to use them. Chomsky presents the poverty of stimulus as a response to ...
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