Evidence Rebuts Chomsky’s Theory of Language Learning

The idea that we have brains hardwired with a mental template for learning grammar—famously espoused by Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—has dominated linguistics for almost half a century. Recently, though, cognitive scientists and linguists have abandoned Chomsky’s “universal grammar” theory in droves because of new research examining many different languages—and the way young children learn to understand and speak the tongues of their communities. That work fails to support Chomsky’s assertions.

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique hu­­­man ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance. (link)

The notion that Chomsky is wrong is not new, but the linked article still a good read.

See this for a rebuttal of the above: Don’t believe the rumours. Universal Grammar is alive and well.

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The following is only tangentially related to the above articles.

The key point in FIML is that messages (language, semiotics, etc.) are often misunderstood and that these misunderstandings can have large psychological effects.

Messages can be misunderstood on many levels, but the level that is least appreciated today and thus has the greatest unacknowledged implications for human psychology is the micro-level.

The micro-level is the level of the short-term memory (time component) and the psychological morpheme (emotional component). Psychological morphemes arise as brief (short-term memory) associations are made with other semiotic and thought systems in real-time.

If errors at this level are not corrected, large effects can ensue. Errors at this level are best corrected in real-time as quickly as possible (while the contents of the short-term memory are still fresh). This is why the FIML technique is done the way it is and why it works as well as it does.

A psychological morpheme is:

The smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

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