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Universal Grammar

Man-is-good
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9/3/2011 10:22:19 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
The concept of universal grammar, which was introduced by Noam Chomsky[1], suggests that all humans have an innate, genetic understanding of the rules and principles of human grammar common to all languages. It discounts the role of the environment in shaping such linguistic rules...

The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")

Do you agree with this theory? Are there flaws with it?

[1] Note that works as early as that of the great philosopher, Roger Bacon, have noted commonalities in languages as well...
[2] According to the generative linguistics school
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Logic_on_rails
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9/4/2011 12:37:18 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
I have not done much research into this subject before. Nevertheless, my experience would suggest a limited form of universal grammar. I'd also venture to say there is a form of universal communication - certain symbols and ideas are understood by all humans.

Of course, I'm not sure if this universal symbolism would extend if we were to contact life from other planets. There's actually an interesting episode in TNG ('Darmok' I think) where a certain race follows language conventions and such but only speak in metaphors and similes, creating certain troubles.

However, that's off topic. I think that things like how verbs and nouns are distinguished are found as part of universal grammar primarily due to it aiding in humans living, but further aspects of universal grammar might not be so numerous.
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Ragnar_Rahl
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9/4/2011 12:49:51 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
Neither thing as you expressed it is a "rule" that can be coherently followed from the information you gave.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Wnope
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9/4/2011 12:53:42 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/3/2011 10:22:19 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
The concept of universal grammar, which was introduced by Noam Chomsky[1], suggests that all humans have an innate, genetic understanding of the rules and principles of human grammar common to all languages. It discounts the role of the environment in shaping such linguistic rules...

The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")

Do you agree with this theory? Are there flaws with it?

[1] Note that works as early as that of the great philosopher, Roger Bacon, have noted commonalities in languages as well...
[2] According to the generative linguistics school

I actually was taught by some students of Chomsky's with reactionary views. They were part of the connectionist school.

Their problem with Chomsky's theory is that the explanatory power comes from positing that these rules of grammar occur without the use of feedback correction by parents.

It is one thing to find commonalities in all languages. It is another to claim that we are born with some mechanism to process a pre-set grammar.

"It is commonly assumed that innate linguistic constraints are necessary to learn a natural language, based on the apparent lack of explicit negative evidence provided to children and on Gold's proof that, under assumptions of virtually arbitrary positive presentation, most interesting classes of languages are not learnable. However, Gold's results do not apply under the rather common assumption that language presentation may be modeled as a stochastic process. Indeed, Elman (1993, Cognition) demonstrated that a simple recurrent connectionist network could learn an artificial grammar with some of the complexities of English, including embedded clauses, based on performing a word prediction task within a stochastic environment."

http://www.cnbc.cmu.edu...

In English, Chomsky is not taking learning over time into account when he models innate language processes. The "lack of explicit negative evidence" is only true if you look at an individuals language development at a particular time as opposed to over time.

When a baby says something wrong, occasionally, if not always, the mother corrects it. Chomsky's argument depends on this not being a relevant factor to language formation. Check out Connectionism and Hebbian learning systems.

http://en.wikipedia.org...
Man-is-good
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9/4/2011 10:41:42 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 12:49:51 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
Neither thing as you expressed it is a "rule" that can be coherently followed from the information you gave.

I'll try to re-phrase it the best I can to explain the two 'rules':
Structure dependency rule: sentences are determined by phrase structure, and there its meaning depends on the meaning of its individual phrases, not words.

Head parameter rule: each phrase contains a main ("head") word; all languages have it in the same position...within the phrase (as in translation)
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Man-is-good
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9/4/2011 10:58:28 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
@Wnope,

Interesting, especially about the article on the Hebbian theory...I do suppose that, if I got your point correctly, the role of the parent is a contended issue...

From the article that I read, there are other issues: the lack of consideration on the 'evolutionary roots of language' and emphasis on both social circumstances and neurological explanations for such phenomena. In addition, the author also stresses the inadequacy of the theory to account for the complexities of languages as well.

Are these valid reasons to why we would also criticize the Universal Grammar theory, along with the issue that you presented?
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Ragnar_Rahl
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9/4/2011 1:10:39 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 10:41:42 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/4/2011 12:49:51 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
Neither thing as you expressed it is a "rule" that can be coherently followed from the information you gave.

I'll try to re-phrase it the best I can to explain the two 'rules':
Structure dependency rule: sentences are determined by phrase structure, and there its meaning depends on the meaning of its individual phrases, not words.

That's not a rule of grammar, you can't follow it or not follow it, it's either a true statement about all meaningful sentences before you express it or it isn;t.

Head parameter rule: each phrase contains a main ("head") word; all languages have it in the same position...within the phrase (as in translation)
What? How do I follow this?
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Man-is-good
Posts: 6,871
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9/4/2011 1:16:05 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 1:10:39 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
At 9/4/2011 10:41:42 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/4/2011 12:49:51 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
Neither thing as you expressed it is a "rule" that can be coherently followed from the information you gave.

I'll try to re-phrase it the best I can to explain the two 'rules':
Structure dependency rule: sentences are determined by phrase structure, and there its meaning depends on the meaning of its individual phrases, not words.

That's not a rule of grammar, you can't follow it or not follow it, it's either a true statement about all meaningful sentences before you express it or it isn;t.

It really isn't..but I suppose Chomsky uses it to display the validity of the theory of Universal Grammar...though I'm not very well-acquainted with it...

Head parameter rule: each phrase contains a main ("head") word; all languages have it in the same position...within the phrase (as in translation)
What? How do I follow this?

According to the article that I was reading, I suppose that "rule" doesn't apply to question. The example that I gave, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" was an example of this head parameter "rule", though I must say that I'm confused as well to which is the main word.

Note that I'm not supporting the theory, but only asking for feedback, critique, or assessment of it.
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Man-is-good
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9/4/2011 1:18:27 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I should ask for anyone to try to clarify what the head parameter "rule" means...since I just realized that I don't understand it.
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Man-is-good
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9/4/2011 1:19:28 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 1:16:05 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/4/2011 1:10:39 PM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
At 9/4/2011 10:41:42 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/4/2011 12:49:51 AM, Ragnar_Rahl wrote:
The 'structure dependency rule' and the 'head parameter rule' are both given as examples of two grammatical rules universal in languages....(The structure dependency rule "refers to the structure of the language in order to adequately perform some operation" [2] and the head parameter rule applies to the structure of the phrase, as illustrated by the famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.")
Neither thing as you expressed it is a "rule" that can be coherently followed from the information you gave.

I'll try to re-phrase it the best I can to explain the two 'rules':
Structure dependency rule: sentences are determined by phrase structure, and there its meaning depends on the meaning of its individual phrases, not words.

That's not a rule of grammar, you can't follow it or not follow it, it's either a true statement about all meaningful sentences before you express it or it isn;t.

It really isn't..but I suppose Chomsky uses it to display the validity of the theory of Universal Grammar...though I'm not very well-acquainted with it...


Head parameter rule: each phrase contains a main ("head") word; all languages have it in the same position...within the phrase (as in translation)
What? How do I follow this?

According to the article that I was reading, I suppose that "rule" doesn't apply to question. The example that I gave, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" was an example of this head parameter "rule", though I must say that I'm confused as well to which is the main word.

Note that I'm not supporting the theory, but only asking for feedback, critique, or assessment of it.

Both are given as examples of linguistic similarities, so perhaps "characteristic" would be a more fitting name for these "rules" that Chomsky named...
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Wnope
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9/4/2011 2:53:17 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 10:58:28 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
@Wnope,

Interesting, especially about the article on the Hebbian theory...I do suppose that, if I got your point correctly, the role of the parent is a contended issue...

From the article that I read, there are other issues: the lack of consideration on the 'evolutionary roots of language' and emphasis on both social circumstances and neurological explanations for such phenomena. In addition, the author also stresses the inadequacy of the theory to account for the complexities of languages as well.

Are these valid reasons to why we would also criticize the Universal Grammar theory, along with the issue that you presented?

These are also quite valid reasons. Pinker tries to bridge the gap by positing a "bootstrap" where certain brain functions you find in chimps were co-opted into a language center. However, this isn't without problems.

I would definitely say Chomsky doesn't fully take evolution into account and it does not cover all forms of grammar. I mainly pointed to connectionism since the former points are well-covered in most anti-chomsky articles.

His system is modeled as assuming an individual receives no negative feedback when developing a sense of grammar, and he identifies a unique brain function to language when we in fact find syntax in many non-human species.

Chomsky is bit like Darwin. The original word-for-word theory is quite error-ridden (Darwin thought traits were transferred by something called "gemmules"), but some authors have updated Chomsky into more useful contexts.

However, I still feel connectionism is the way to go, especially because it specifically models our brain and how neurons interact.
Man-is-good
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9/4/2011 3:04:47 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 2:53:17 PM, Wnope wrote:
At 9/4/2011 10:58:28 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
@Wnope,

Interesting, especially about the article on the Hebbian theory...I do suppose that, if I got your point correctly, the role of the parent is a contended issue...

From the article that I read, there are other issues: the lack of consideration on the 'evolutionary roots of language' and emphasis on both social circumstances and neurological explanations for such phenomena. In addition, the author also stresses the inadequacy of the theory to account for the complexities of languages as well.

Are these valid reasons to why we would also criticize the Universal Grammar theory, along with the issue that you presented?

These are also quite valid reasons. Pinker tries to bridge the gap by positing a "bootstrap" where certain brain functions you find in chimps were co-opted into a language center. However, this isn't without problems.

I would definitely say Chomsky doesn't fully take evolution into account and it does not cover all forms of grammar. I mainly pointed to connectionism since the former points are well-covered in most anti-chomsky articles.

His system is modeled as assuming an individual receives no negative feedback when developing a sense of grammar, and he identifies a unique brain function to language when we in fact find syntax in many non-human species.

Chomsky is bit like Darwin. The original word-for-word theory is quite error-ridden (Darwin thought traits were transferred by something called "gemmules"), but some authors have updated Chomsky into more useful contexts.

However, I still feel connectionism is the way to go, especially because it specifically models our brain and how neurons interact.

I'll be reading more into this connectionism...since it appears to be an interesting take on 'how neurons interact' and so on. Thanks for the discussion...
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau
Wnope
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9/5/2011 3:14:52 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/4/2011 3:04:47 PM, Man-is-good wrote:
At 9/4/2011 2:53:17 PM, Wnope wrote:
At 9/4/2011 10:58:28 AM, Man-is-good wrote:
@Wnope,

Interesting, especially about the article on the Hebbian theory...I do suppose that, if I got your point correctly, the role of the parent is a contended issue...

From the article that I read, there are other issues: the lack of consideration on the 'evolutionary roots of language' and emphasis on both social circumstances and neurological explanations for such phenomena. In addition, the author also stresses the inadequacy of the theory to account for the complexities of languages as well.

Are these valid reasons to why we would also criticize the Universal Grammar theory, along with the issue that you presented?

These are also quite valid reasons. Pinker tries to bridge the gap by positing a "bootstrap" where certain brain functions you find in chimps were co-opted into a language center. However, this isn't without problems.

I would definitely say Chomsky doesn't fully take evolution into account and it does not cover all forms of grammar. I mainly pointed to connectionism since the former points are well-covered in most anti-chomsky articles.

His system is modeled as assuming an individual receives no negative feedback when developing a sense of grammar, and he identifies a unique brain function to language when we in fact find syntax in many non-human species.

Chomsky is bit like Darwin. The original word-for-word theory is quite error-ridden (Darwin thought traits were transferred by something called "gemmules"), but some authors have updated Chomsky into more useful contexts.

However, I still feel connectionism is the way to go, especially because it specifically models our brain and how neurons interact.

I'll be reading more into this connectionism...since it appears to be an interesting take on 'how neurons interact' and so on. Thanks for the discussion...

No problem. You'll also find connectionism useful when dealing with neurological explanations of word or grammar choice. Chomsky uses more of a black box approach and is not useful when dealing with actual neurology.
Tiel
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9/5/2011 9:43:06 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
Body language and positive/negative energy vocalization are both universal languages. Raising a fist, frowning your eyebrows, putting a hand over your stomach with an unhappy look on your face, vocalizing angrily, a quick burst of vocalized pain, tears and/or vocalized crying, etc.
"Only the inner force of curiosity and wonder about the unknown, or an outer force upon your free will, can brake the shackles of your current perception."
Man-is-good
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9/6/2011 8:36:34 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
At 9/5/2011 9:43:06 PM, Tiel wrote:
Body language and positive/negative energy vocalization are both universal languages. Raising a fist, frowning your eyebrows, putting a hand over your stomach with an unhappy look on your face, vocalizing angrily, a quick burst of vocalized pain, tears and/or vocalized crying, etc.

The concept of universal grammar applies to linguistics, not to 'body language and positive/negative energy vocalization'. That may be why examples of grammatical 'rules' were set to prove the universal similarities in worldwide languages...Tiel.
"Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto." --Terence

"I believe that the mind can be permanently profaned by the habit of attending to trivial things, so that all our thoughts shall be tinged with triviality."--Thoreau