Thank you for sharing that link.
Thanks for sharing these links, Bill!I thought the Berwick and Chomsky article was very clear on some methodological aspects that were discussed here on the blog. In prior discussions, Norbert and others have said that Darwin’s problem can be a constraining force on linguistic theorising. I think this is a reductionist move that is quite toothless, because we don’t know anything about the evolution of cognition for it to act as a meaningful constraining force. And anything we assume about the latter is exactly that, an assumption without any justification. Interestingly, other reductionist ventures like using neuro-work to constrain/inform linguistic theorising has been met with appropriate skepticism. Though, if anything, we know more about neuro-stuff than we do about the evolution of cognition. The inconsistency in using reductionist arguments is interesting, and I would like to think more about why that is the case.In this regard the Berwick and Chomsky write up is especially clear. Darwin’s problem doesn’t constraint/inform linguistic theorising. It is linguistics that constrains/informs Darwin’s problem. This to me is the appropriate directionality. Get a useful description of the phenotype and then go about studying how it has evolved. (The argument is similar in some ways, I think, to the one in Aspects about how getting a proper Competence understanding allows one to study Performance in a more principled way, and not the other way around.)The quotes below are particularly clear about this directionality:- “Lenneberg’s scruples were catholic. He observed that current generative grammars were not yet sophisticated enough to serve as the foundation for any evolutionary explanation of human language”- “For these reasons, no sensible evolutionary analysis of the origin of language could be carried out until the 1990s. By then, the minimalist program had provided evidence that far-reaching and often surprising universal linguistic principles could be derived from very simple assumptions.”
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