Chomsky's Minimalism

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Oxford University Press, Aug 26, 2004 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 256 pages
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Noam Chomsky's current theory, published in 1995, is known as The Minimalist Program and has been presented as his crowning achievement. It argues, familiarly, that there exists a universal grammar that is hardwired, and that, like an efficient machine, this grammar will tend to use the least possible number of constraints (phonetically and syntactically) to produce an utterance. Minimalism has spawned in linguistics an entire research program, despite being fundamentally misguided, according to distinguished linguist and philosopher of language Pieter Seuren. Seuren's accessible and spirited attack argues that the Minimalist Program is deeply flawed. He proposes that it fails to satisfy the basic criteria for sound scientific work, such as respect for data, unambiguous formulations, and falsifiability. Seuren points to the original acrimonious split in the 1960s and 1970s between Chomsky's generative grammar and the alternative generative semantics proposed by his followers, and argues that the latter theory was sounder and unfairly suppressed. Seuren maintains that this suppression--and the cult surrounding Chomsky and Minimalism more generally--has done great damage to linguistics by impairing open discussion of empirical issues and excluding valid alternatives. Chomsky's Minimalism will generate controversy among linguists in its attack on the fundamental assumptions used by an entire generation of researchers.

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An excellent and lucid discussion of one of the most pretentious and outrageous
frauds of recent academic and intellectual history.


1 Introduction
2 The Mechanism of the MP under Scrutiny
3 The Language Faculty
4 Questions of Method and Adequacy
5 What Is Functional about the MP?
6 What Is Conceptually Necessary about the MP?
7 SurfaceDriven Elements of Semantic Interpretation
8 The Embarrassment of Evidence

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Simpler Syntax
Peter W. Culicover
No preview available - 2005
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About the author (2004)

Pieter A. M. Seuren's current position is as Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands. He is also the author of A View of Language (OUP 2002).

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