Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
There are some interesting subtexts in the article having to do with loss of faith (loss of faith in God or religion, loss of faith in Chomsky) and through it the abandonment of the frame through which we view the world, allowing one's vision to be clearer....

Also, on a less esoteric level, some important academic criticisms of Chomsky here, like this:

Steven Pinker, the Harvard cognitive scientist, who wrote admiringly about some of Chomsky's ideas in his 1994 best-seller, "The Language Instinct," told me, "There's a lot of strange stuff going on in the Chomskyan program. He's a guru, he makes pronouncements that his disciples accept on faith and that he doesn't feel compelled to defend in the conventional scientific manner. Some of them become accepted within his circle as God's truth without really being properly evaluated, and, surprisingly for someone who talks about universal grammar, he hasn't actually done the spadework of seeing how it works in some weird little language that they speak in New Guinea."

and this:

When Fitch and Everett met in Porto Velho in July, two days before heading into the jungle, they seemed, by tacit agreement, to be avoiding talk of Chomsky. But, on the eve of our departure, while we were sitting by the pool at the Hotel Vila Rica, Everett mentioned two professors who, he said, were "among the three most arrogant people I've met."

"Who's the third?" Fitch asked.

"Noam," Everett said.

"No!" Fitch cried. "Given his status in science, Chomsky is the least arrogant man, the humblest great man, I've ever met."

Everett was having none of it. "Noam Chomsky thinks of himself as Aristotle!" he declared. "He has dug a hole for linguistics that it will take decades for the discipline to climb out of!"

Myself, I'm quite sympathetic to the Sapir-Whorf school, so my perception is likely colored by that, but it seems illogical to assume that the two theories can't exist side-by-side.  I don't mean to discount all of Chomsky's life's work or his theories (IANAL either) but it seems dangerous to me for one frame, one theory, one person to hold such sway over any discipline.

Everett is saying something similar about language and about theories-of-language (or, by extension, about theories about practically anything):

Everett, who two weeks ago posted a response to Pesetsky and his co-authors on LingBuzz, says that Chomsky's theory necessarily colored his data-gathering and analysis. " `Descriptive work' apart from theory does not exist," he told me. "We ask the questions that our theories tell us to ask."

We think within our frames.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Jul 8th, 2007 at 05:36:07 AM EST
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