Language Acquisition

Michael Devitt

in Ignorance of Language

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199250967
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603945 | DOI:
Language Acquisition

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This chapter takes the familiar arguments for nativism to establish the interesting nativist thesis that “the initial state” of linguistic competence is sufficiently rich that humans can naturally learn only languages that conform to the rules specified by “Universal Grammar” (the UG-rules). It rejects Fodor’s “only-theory-in-town” abduction for the very exciting “I-Representational Thesis”, the thesis that the UG-rules are represented in the initial state. It argues that this thesis lacks significant evidence and is implausible. The chapter also argues for some tentative proposals: that the UG-rules are, largely if not entirely, innate structure rules of thought, a proposal resting on the Language-of-Thought Hypothesis (LOTH); that if LOTH is false, then the UG-rules are not, in a robust way, innate in a speaker; and that there is little or nothing to the language faculty. The chapter concludes the book-long argument that there is no significant evidence for the Representational Thesis (RT) and that it is implausible.

Keywords: language acquisition; nativism; innateness Universal Grammar; UG-rules; only-theory-in-town; I-Representational Thesis; implicit learning; Language-of-Thought Hypothesis; Representational Thesis

Chapter.  14952 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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