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Balancing Evolution and Acquisition in Theoretical Linguistics





The history of generative linguistics is a history of a tension between, on the one hand, incorporating all the complexity suggested by detailed descriptions of natural languages and the innate knowledge humans bring to the task of acquisition, and on the other the sparsity that seems to be forced on such innate contributions by developmental and evolutionary biology and psychology. In this paper I describe these pressures in detail, and then outline the strategy currently adopted by ‘Minimalist’ linguistic theorizing, which involves deriving the complexity of linguistic competence from an underlying simple system. I close with some remarks on the remaining difficulties and prospects for such an explanatory strategy.

Acceptance Date Mar 12, 2022
Publication Date May 12, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2025
Book Title Philosophical Approaches to Language and Communication
ISBN 9783631868812
Publisher URL