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Lecture | LACG Meetings

The ‘evolution’ of the Innateness Hypothesis for language

Thursday 19 May 2022
LACG Meetings
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


In this talk, I will discuss "the 'evolution' of the Innateness Hypothesis for Language" that came to be associated with the linguistic work of Noam Chomsky, being a controversial idea that sparked much discussion between 'rationalist/nativists' and 'empiricists' (within the broader context of the never-ending 'nature/nurture debate).  I will start briefly reviewing the early arguments that have been given in support of this hypothesis, as well as responses to it (touching on areas such as language acquisition, language universals, language change, pidgin/creole languages, sign languages, as well as biological angles from genetics, neuroscience, animal communication, and evolutionary theories). While many of the arguments are repeated in introductory texts, classrooms and popular outlets, it is important to focus on how the content of the Innateness Hypothesis has changed due to developments within the Chomskyan approach which involve a significant (but not necessarily helpful) shift in where the explanation for the human capacity for language is to be found.

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