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What are the most convincing and most popular arguments against the Innateness Hypothesis of Universal Grammar or Universal Grammar as described by Chomsky?

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What do you mean by Universal Grammar? Do you mean Chomsky's Innateness Hypothesis, or his current formulation of the nature language faculty? – Dan Milway Nov 6 '11 at 14:40
I was thinking of the Innateness Hypothesis, but has it been superseded? By Chomsky himself? – Lucas Nov 6 '11 at 14:56
No, It's still the basis for most of current linguistics but the field has split into various frameworks for explaining innateness. – Dan Milway Nov 6 '11 at 15:04
After reading some of the arguments, here's a pretty humourous counterpoint from Elan Dresher of the University of Toronto – Dan Milway Nov 6 '11 at 17:12
Most wonderful answers to this one! – kaleissin Nov 6 '11 at 18:15

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Obviously there is much written on this topic. A good place to start reading might be Evans & Levinson's (2009) article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences which is accompanied by responses.

See The myth of language universals: Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science by Nicholas Evans and Stephen C. Levinson.

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Journals in linguistics are closed to outsiders--- it is hardly possible to even put a mathematical description of English grammar. The innateness of recursion is dead, it's wrong, and Evans defends it with the most pompous nonsense against the ideal counterexample of Piraha. There is nothing to say--- he is not a serious person, and I don't see any point in referencing him. – Ron Maimon Mar 12 '12 at 23:18
@RonMaimon are you talking about the same Evans (& Levinson) who write "Recursion ... is a capacity languages may exhibit, not a universally present feature." (443) ? (BBS is not specifically a linguistics journal, but I admit that it is difficult to get published there) – jlovegren Mar 13 '12 at 0:48
Please let's avoid personal attacks. If you disagree with someone ideas or even if you dislike them, then write "I dislike X's ideas" or "I strongly disagree with X ideas". – Alenanno Nov 4 '12 at 20:16
This isn't an answer, merely a pointer to an answer. – Joe Dec 10 '12 at 5:58

Here is an essay you can find interesting:

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

You may be interested in A Thousand Plateaus, a book Felix Guattari co-authored with Gilles Deleuze, in which they discuss Chomskyian linguistics in some depth and with a great deal of care.

Some caution may be warranted: they may seem to take Chomsky rather lightly, and their position may appear to be antithetically opposed in many ways -- you will find them, for instance, arguing against 'tree-based' sentence analysis, promoting in its stead a kind of 'an-hierarchical' or 'rhizomatic' language analysis emphasizing the pragmatic and collective aspects of discourse. However, a careful reading of this work will find a unique encounter with Chomsky's linguistics that is well worth the time to unpack.

They also offer a detailed reading of the Labov-Chomsky debate, which may be of some interest in this context.

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