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Chomsky (was:Cognitive Linguistics, "The Language Instinct", and High-Functioning Autistics

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 21:13
Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:

> On Tue, 16 May 2006 23:12:24 +0100, And Rosta wrote: > > > I have heard Chomsky himself in an interview say that he is a monoglot. > > (snip)
> Thanks, I feel somewhat vindicated by this. This is apparently what the > old canard about Chomsky not knowing foreign languages comes from. > > Of course, being a monoglot not necessarily means not knowing about > foreign > languages, it only means not mastering them. (snip)
I suspect he was making a precise distinction between being able to _speak_ other languages (monoglot vs. polyglot), as opposed to knowing (at least something) about other/many languages (some would say that that defines a Linguist :-) ). Someone mentioned that he knew Hebrew-- indeed, that has to be the case; IIRC his father was by all reports a noted scholar of things Hebrew/Jewish (I seem to recall hearing that he was a rabbi, but am not sure about that), and surely little Noam had a proper Jewish upbringing. He is only 6 years older than me, and attended U.Penn. which, as a member of the so-called Ivy League, in those days (late 40s) almost certainly would have required evidence of foreign-language study (preferably Latin!) in high school--as did all the Ivy League colleges, and many public/private institutions. But no doubt a knowledge of Biblical Hebrew could have been acceptable. Furthermore, doctoral programs in the US (at least in the humanities) have always required at least a reading knowledge of French and German before the degree would be granted. (I managed to pass those requirements, but wouldn't dare try to speak the languages :-(( ) But some of NC's more fanatical disciples did adopt a very anglocentric attitude, and attempted (and by their lights succeeded) in forcing many languages into a procrustean English-like TG model, with results that some at the time found, and many now find, faintly ridiculous. Still and all, TG and its subsequent avatars were a real advance over previous item-and-arrangement/Stucturalist grammar, which had nothing to say about the commonalities that do exist between languages. Also, by causing a "paradigm shift" in linguistics, TG made possible all the newer theories...which, of course, may or may not be a Good Thing :-)