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Re: Naturalness, etc. (was: Re: LUNATIC again)

From:John Cowan <cowan@...>
Date:Thursday, November 5, 1998, 21:24
Matt Pearson wrote:

> Part of the problem is that many of the attacks on Chomskyan theory that > I've read, both on this list and elsewhere, are based on the theory as it > was twenty years ago.
I think that's about as far as I got, too; partly this is because good, intelligible *vulgarisation* of minimalism don't seem to exist yet. IMHO, one of the most moving bits of Kant's work is the passage in the _Critique of Practical Reason_ where he admits that he has no gift for exposition, and hopes that someone will come along who can explain his views to the world. Of course, what he got was Hegel.
> For example, IMHO, the criticism that Chomskyans > believe that "if it happens in French, English, and Hebrew, then it's > universal" is no longer valid, if it ever really was.
As one who has been guilty of propagating this, I protest that I never meant it as a serious criticism, but as a sarcasm; it was chosen for pungency, not accuracy.
> I guess I resent having to answer for all the little > eccentricities of Chomsky's own work when the field is so much broader > than just one person.
Who would not? But in fact, at the Day of Judgment, it is your own work you will have to answer for, and no one else's.
> And to be honest, my feeling is that the best work > within generative linguistics has been done not by Chomsky or his closer > followers, but by those of us who are inspired by his ideas but also take > them with a grain of salt.
I've many times observed in computer science that it is not the creators of new paradigms who do the most interesting things with them, for they have a regrettable tendency to toss out the last 20 years or so of advancement. (My favorite example is APL, which introduced mathematical matrices into the then existing state of the art, which treated vectors and matrices solely as repositories rather than as single objects --- but at the cost of abandoning all flow control except the archaic conditional and unconditional GOTO.) -- John Cowan You tollerday donsk? N. You tolkatiff scowegian? Nn. You spigotty anglease? Nnn. You phonio saxo? Nnnn. Clear all so! 'Tis a Jute.... (Finnegans Wake 16.5)