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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Topic: Polemics


By Volker Halbach


It has been proposed to block Fitch’s paradox by disallowing a predicate or sentential operator of knowledge that can be applied to sentences containing the same predicate or operator of knowledge. Furthermore it has been claimed that this move is not ad hoc as there is independent motivation for this restriction, because this restriction provides a solution also to paradoxes arising from selfreference like the paradox of the Knower. A solution to paradoxes arising from selfreference is only needed if knowledge is treated as a predicate that can be diagonalized. However, if knowledge and possibility are conceived as such predicates with type restrictions, a new paradox arises. Very basic, jointly consistent assumptions on the predicates of knowledge and possibility yield an inconsistency if (a typed version of) the verifiability principle is added.

[read more]

Analysis 68 (2008), to appear

Posted by Tony Marmo at 19:29 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 September 2007 19:31 BST
Friday, 9 September 2005

Now Playing: REPOSTED
Topic: Polemics

The Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic

The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?

By Marc D. Hauser, Noam Chomsky & W. Tecumseh Fitch

We argue that an understanding of the faculty of language requires substantial interdisciplinary cooperation. We suggest how current developments in linguistics can be profitably wedded to work in evolutionary biology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience. We submit that a distinction should be made between the faculty of language in the broad sense (FLB)and in the narrow sense (FLN). FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of elements. We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social relations).

Appeared in SCIENCE VOL 298, 22 NOVEMBER 2002

See also
The Faculty of Language: What's Special about it?

Formal grammar and information theory: together again?
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 9 September 2005 07:32 BST
Sunday, 4 September 2005

Topic: Polemics

Adaptationism for Human Cognition: Strong, Spurious or Weak?

By Scott Atran

Strong adaptationists explore complex organic design as task-specific adaptations to ancestral environments. This strategy seems best when there is evidence of homology. Weak adaptationists don’t assume that complex organic (including cognitive and linguistic) functioning necessarily or primarily represents task-specific adaptation. This approach to cognition resembles physicists’ attempts to deductively explain the most facts with fewest hypotheses. For certain domain-specific competencies (folkbiology) strong adaptationism is useful but not necessary to research. With group-level belief systems (religion) strong adaptationism degenerates into spurious notions of social function and cultural selection. In other cases (language, especially universal grammar) weak adaptationism’s ‘minimalist’ approach seems productive.

Appeared in Mind and Language, February 2005 - Vol. 20 Issue 1 Page 1-139

Related to the Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic

Posted by Tony Marmo at 07:45 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 07:47 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic

The Faculty of Language: What's Special about it?

By Steven Pinker and Ray Jackendoff

We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky's recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is "perfect," non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for communication. The hypothesis that language is a complex adaptation for communication which evolved piecemeal avoids all these problems.

Appeared in Cognition Volume 95, Issue 2 , March 2005

See also

Formal grammar and information theory: together again?
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 02:02 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 02:33 BST

Topic: Polemics

The Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky versus Jackendoff and Pinker Polemic


By W. Tecumseh Fitch, Marc D. Hauser & Noam Chomsky

In this response to Pinker and Jackendoff's critique, we extend our previous framework for discussion of language evolution, clarifying certain distinctions and elaborating on a number of points. In the first half of the paper, we reiterate that profitable research into the biology and evolution of language requires fractionation of "language" into component mechanisms and interfaces, a non-trivial endeavor whose results are unlikely to map onto traditional disciplinary boundaries. Our terminological distinction between FLN and FLB is intended to help clarify misunderstandings and aid interdisciplinary rapprochement. By blurring this distinction, Pinker and Jackendoff mischaracterize our hypothesis, which concerns only FLN, not "language" as a whole. Many of their arguments and examples are thus irrelevant to this hypothesis. Their critique of the minimalist program is for the most part equally irrelevant, because very few of the arguments in our original paper were tied to this program; in an online appendix we detail the deep inaccuracies in their characterization of this program.
Concerning evolution, we believe that Pinker and Jackendoff's emphasis on the past adaptive history of the language faculty is misplaced. Such questions are unlikely to be resolved empirically due to a lack of relevant data, and invite speculation rather than research. Preoccupation with the issue has retarded progress in the field by diverting research away from empirical questions, many of which can be addressed with comparative data. Moreover, offering an adaptive hypothesis as an alternative to our hypothesis concerning mechanisms is a logical error, as questions of function are independent of those concerning mechanism. The second half of our paper consists of a detailed response to the specific data discussed by Pinker and Jackendoff. Although many of their examples are irrelevant to our original paper and arguments, we find several areas of substantive disagreement that could be resolved by future empirical research. We conclude that progress in understanding the evolution of language will require much more empirical research, grounded in modern comparative biology, more interdisciplinary collaboration, and much less of the adaptive storytelling and phylogenetic speculation that has traditionally characterized the field.

See also the Baldwin Effect.
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Non-genomic nativism

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Sunday, 4 September 2005 02:17 BST
Saturday, 3 September 2005

Topic: Polemics

The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language

[Reply to Fitch, Hauser & Chomsky]
By Ray Jackendoff & Steven Pinker

In a continuation of the conversation with Fitch, Chomsky, and Hauser on the evolution of language, we examine their defense of the claim that the uniquely human, language-specific part of the language faculty (the "narrow language faculty") consists only of recursion, and that this part cannot be considered an adaptation to communication. We argue that their characterization of the narrow language faculty is problematic for many reasons, including its dichotomization of cognitive capacities into those that are utterly unique and those that are identical to nonlinguistic or nonhuman capacities, omitting capacities that may have been substantially modified during human evolution. We also question their dichotomy of the current utility versus original function of a trait, which omits traits that are adaptations for current use, and their dichotomy of humans and animals, which conflates similarity due to common function and similarity due to inheritance from a recent common ancestor.
We show that recursion, though absent from other animals' communications systems, is found in visual cognition, hence cannot be the sole evolutionary development that granted language to humans. Finally, we note that despite Fitch et al.'s denial, their view of language evolution is tied to Chomsky's conception of language itself, which identifies combinatorial productivity with a core of "narrow syntax." An alternative conception, in which combinatoriality is spread across words and constructions, has both empirical advantages and greater evolutionary plausibility.

To appear in Cognition

See also
Non-genomic nativism
The Fodor-Pinker Debate
Formal grammar and information theory: together again?

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005 23:00 BST
Monday, 22 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

On Horwich' Way out

By Panu Raatikainen

Horwhich proposes that all there really is to truth follows from the equivalence schema:
The proposition that p is true iff p,

or using Horwich' notation‹p› is true ↔ p.
Horwich claims that all facts involving truth can be explained on the basis of the minimal theory.
However, it has been pointed out, e.g. by Gupta (1993), that the minimal theory is too weak to entail any general fact about truth, e.g. the fact that
Every proposition of the form 'p → p' is true[...]

Appeared in Analysis, July 2005 Vol. 65 No. 3

Posted by Tony Marmo at 18:28 BST
Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005 18:32 BST
Thursday, 18 August 2005

Topic: Polemics

The Excluded Middle:
Semantic Minimalism without Minimal Propositions

PPR commentary on Cappelen and Lepore, Insensitive Semantics

By Kent Bach

Insensitive Semantics is mainly a protracted assault on semantic Contextualism, both moderate and radical. Cappelen and Lepore argue that Moderate Contextualism leads inevitably to Radical Contextualism and in turn that Radical Contextualism is misguided. Assuming that the only alternative to Contextualism is their Semantic Minimalism, they think they’ve given an indirect argument for it. But they overlook a third view, one that splits the difference between the other two. Like Contextualism it rejects Propositionalism, the conservative dogma that every indexical-free declarative sentence expresses a proposition. Unlike Contextualism, it does not invoke context to fill semantic gaps and, indeed, denies that filling those gaps is a semantic matter. In rejecting Propositionalism, it is more radical, indeed, more minimalist than Cappelen and Lepore’s brand of Semantic Minimalism. It does not imagine that sentences that intuitively seem not to express propositions at least express “minimal propositions.” Radical Semantic Minimalism, or simply Radicalism, says that the sentences in question are semantically incomplete – their semantic contents are not propositions but merely “propositional radicals.”

Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:48 BST
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 16:51 BST

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