Monday, January 07, 2008

Origins of Language

That's interesting, Mark. As you know, I've criticized Chomsky for being an innatist and closet idealist. I am not easy in my mind with innate postulations, but in this one instance I am prepared to go along with it. Why? Because it's a retrospective postulate that seems to cover the present facts. Children DO have an
extraordinary ability to pick up languages and this would suggest that all languages do conform to universal parameters. Similarly, behaviorist learning techniques cannot adequately account for the speed and creative ways in which children learn languages. As people get older, perhaps they conform more to behaviorist models: though punishment and reward techniques will always have some success.

Some psychologists seem to believe that it's very important that we know how language developed and the moment it happened. This doesn't concern me too much. It's basically an unknowable, though further scientific developments based on the discovery of new data (ancient human remains, etc.) might eventually shed some light on the matter (or maybe not). In the meantime, I am not so interested to follow every new psychological theory about where language comes from--an activity that often strikes me as Pre-Socratic in character (deductive and not based on evidence).

As far as I can see, Wittgenstein's later philosophy leads to relativism. There are multiple logics (he says) that only make sense in the context of particular arguments. In this he seems to be in agreement with Foucauld and his idea of discourses that don't have any absolute truth as a necessary part of their function. Furthermore, the later Wittgenstein also repudiated the idea that there is any necessary logical connection between language and the real world. In this respect, his later ideas mirrored those of Saussure.


Anonymous attila said...


9:14 AM  

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