Rules and Representations

Rules and Representations

Rules and Representations

Rules and Representations

Synopsis

As Norbert Hornstein writes in his foreword, "it underestimates Chomsky's impact in linguistics, philosophy, and psychology to describe it as immense." In Rules and Representations, Noam Chomsky lays out many of the concepts that have made his approach to linguistics and human cognition so instrumental to our understanding of language.

In this influential and controversial work Chomsky draws on philosophy, biology, and the study of the mind to consider the nature of human cognitive capacities, particularly as they are expressed in language. He arrives at his well-known position that there is a universal grammar, genetically determined, structured in the human mind, and common to all human languages. Aside from his examination of the various principles of the universal grammar -- its "rules and representations" -- Chomsky considers the biological basis of language capabilities and the possibility of studying mental structures and capacities in the manner of the natural sciences. Finally, he also explores whether there may be similar "grammars" of perception, art, human nature, scientific reasoning, and the unconscious.

Based on Chomsky's lively 1978 Woodbridge Lectures, this edition, first published in 1980, contains revised versions of the original lectures and two new essays. It also includes an extensive foreword by Norbert Hornstein, discussing Chomsky's ideas and their wide-ranging impact.

Excerpt

Chomsky's Natural Philosophy Norbert Hornstein

It underestimates Chomsky's impact in linguistics, philosophy, and psychology to describe it as immense. The aim of this introduction is to make a few remarks about how Chomsky's work has changed the way we now think about language, how this change was wrought, and what collateral consequences ensue. My main claim is that Chomsky's central conceptual contribution has three interrelated parts. First, he argued that we must change what we study in the mental sciences. We must shift from the study of behavior (e.g. linguistic behavior in the case of linguistics) to the study of the structures and etiologies of mental/brain states (e.g. the structure and development of the faculty of language [FL]). Second, in order to fruitfully investigate these mental faculties we must change how we conceptualize research in the mental sciences. In particular, we must come to appreciate the virtues of abstraction and idealization. These are common features of the successful physical sciences and should be enthusiastically adopted in the mental sciences, for only thus will it be possible to bracket the myriad complicating factors that obscure the operation, organization and development of the various faculties . . .

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