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

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Thomas Johnston <tmj44p@xxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 2015 19:54:45 +0000 (UTC)
Message-id: <1011840292.797434.1426794885796.JavaMail.yahoo@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>


re Chomsky and paradigm shifts.

So here's Chomsky on what the Minimalist Program leaves behind: “D-structure; S-structure; government; the Projection Principle and the Theta Criterion; other conditions held to apply at D- and S-Structure; the Empty Category Theory; Case Theory; the Chain Condition, and so on ….There should be no government, no stipulated properties of chains, no binding relations internal to language, no interactions of other kinds … no phrasal categories or bar levels, hence no X-bar theory or other theory of phrase structure apart from bare phrase structure”. (Chomsky, p.10 of “Of Minds and Language”, Biolinguistics 1, 2007, pp. 9-27; italics added.)

This sounds like a paradigm shift to me.

I don't deny that there is continuity across Chomsky's three main theories – transformational-generative grammar, X-bar theory and the Minimalist Program. But I would also point out that there is an important continuity in Wittgenstein across his two theories, and that continuity of commitment is to the verificationist principle, a keystone of the logical atomism of which the Tractatus is the bible. We can see the verificationist theory in the Phil Investigations, in the thesis that “meaning is use” and the argument that there can be no private language.

This was pointed out by, among others, Strawson in his review of the Phil Investigations. If I recall, Strawson also pointed out that the verificationist assumptions are even stronger in the Blue and Brown Books than they are in the Phil Investigations, thus showing a progression, i.e. an attenuation, in his reliance on that principle. (I can get quotes from Strawson's review if you'd like, since it's sitting here on my bookshelf.)

So, again although this is not a serious point, I think that it is about as reasonable to call Chomsky's evolution as much a paradigm shift as Wittgenstein's.



On Thursday, March 19, 2015 2:01 AM, John F Sowa <sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:


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.

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

Some comments on the excerpt by Derek B:

> 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.

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

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

  2. Transformations combine simple sentences and move parts around.

> 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

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.

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

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.

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.

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:

  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".

  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.)

  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.

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

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).

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