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Re: [ontolog-forum] SME (subject matter experts) and Ontology developeme

To: ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
From: John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 02:00:48 -0400
Message-id: <550A6610.5080405@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Tom,    (01)

Wittgenstein made a total shift.  In his second book, he said
there were "grave errors" in the views he had adopted from his
mentors, Frege and Russell.  The underlying assumptions of his
second book were completely different from those in the first.    (02)

But Chomsky never made any such criticism of his earlier work.
None of the changes could be called a "paradigm shift".    (03)

Some comments on the excerpt by Derek B:    (04)

> Chomsky, in fact, did Wittgenstein one better, in moving on from one
> paradigm to another. Transformational-generative grammar turned out to
> require such a plethora of special-purpose rules that, in the 80's,
> he shifted to X-bar theory and the P&P (Principles and Parameters)
> paradigm. But that, too, especially the Parameters part, extended into
> a plethora of rules.    (05)

Each of those stages uses a different notation for specifying the
transformations, but the underlying assumptions are the same:    (06)

  1. Syntax is fundamental.  Simple sentence forms can be generated
     by a phrase-structure grammar (context free or context sensitive).    (07)

  2. Transformations combine simple sentences and move parts around.    (08)

> So in the mid-nineties, he abandoned all this
> syntax-first top-down stuff, and announced his MP (Minimalist Program),
> in which the syntactic component was reduced to Move and Merge, and
> sentence production was at last recognized as beginning with semantic
> units and building them up    (09)

Syntax is still the primary structure.  Those "semantic units"
of the 1990s expressed the same kind of information as the simple
sentences of the 1950s.  The notation does not become semantic
unless you map it to the world -- by perception and action.
But Chomsky claims that the relation between language and the
world is not part of linguistics.  He even claims that the use
of language for communication is outside the field of linguistics.    (010)

The transition from complex rules to the minimalist program is
logically equivalent to moving from theorem proving with predicate
calculus to constraint-logic programming.    (011)

The logicians, computer scientists, and AI researchers (whom
Chomsky has *never* cited in any publication developed those
techniques and showed the equivalences among them.  But Chomsky
never cited any of them.    (012)

His lack of citations is not an indication that he independently
invented those methods, since he collaborated with many linguists
who did study those methods.    (013)

But the issues are more fundamental than quibbling over footnotes.
Following are the claims that Chomsky made in the 1950s and still
preaches in his most recent publications and lectures:    (014)

  1. Children do not receive enough evidence from the language they
     hear to derive an accurate grammar of their native language.
     He calls this claim "the poverty of the stimulus".    (015)

  2. Therefore, he claims that there was some evolutionary shift
     (one or more genetic mutations) that created some kind of
     Language Acquisition Device (LAD) that enables humans to
     learn a limited set of "parameters" that characterize their
     native language.  The LAD uses those parameters to determine
     the full grammar of the language.  (The word 'parameter' is
     a later term, but he made earlier claims without that word.)    (016)

  3. Because the LAD is so important, the actual data (what people
     speak and hear) is less important.  Therefore, a native speaker's
     intuition is more significant than actual data.    (017)

  4. Therefore, toy sentences that linguists create are a more
     significant basis for syntactic theory than actual data
     about what people say and write.    (018)

Both neuroscientists and computational linguists reject these claims.
Linguists who want a recommendation from Chomsky are more charitable
(i.e., they pay lip service to his rear end).    (019)

John    (020)

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