Re: Learning language

Subject: Re: Learning language
From: Willard Brooks <willard -at- SFSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 21:26:53 -0800

On Sun, 10 Dec 1995, Loryn Jenkins wrote:

Loryn writes:
> > And yes, just so you're all aware of my philosophical bias, I think many
> > of Chompsky's imperatives are **CRAP**.
I do not know all of his theories, but I would say that his liguistic
theories inasmuch as they base themselves on assumptions of a biological
basis to language are at best difficlut to prove. It seems to me that
sociolinguists must be faced with the same problems in proving their
theories as the socio-biologists do. To wit, the project of trying to prove
connections between obstensibly polygenetic traits and specific kinds of
behavior. Obviously there must be some connection at some level between
the biological and the social, I am just not certain that it can be
proved in anything but a statistical way. It seems that such research is
based on misconceptions (and the desire to garner attention and tenure).
However, as opposed to **crap**, the word I would use is reductionist
somehow much like looking for human consciousnes at the cellular or
atomic level, it is just a bad question.

If you want an excuse for being
> > racist, just think about where Chompsky's theories could logically end:
> > people biologically determined in their abilities and capabilities,
> > (biologically, racially ...)

I really do not think that Chomsky is a racist. Furthermore there are
theories and interpretations of theories. I do not think that Chomsky's
theories are intrinsiucally racist, although I am sure that they could be
bent around to racist ends, history is full of such examples. It worries
me that the battle cry of so many these days is "racist" I mean it is a
kind of ad hominum argument. That is, if we can somehow call somebody a
racist and enough other people are watching it has become possible in our
society to weaken their credibility and label them bad people. Assuming
that the term racism even has any meaning anymore, labeling somebody does
not after do anything to prove or disprove their theories. Bad argument
is bad argument.

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