Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Glenn Reynolds here points to this article to show that Chomsky's opinions on matters linguistic are not faring so well.
It's a little misleading, though. Now don't get me wrong. I loathe Noam for his political nonsense as much as the next person, but his intitial insights into language really are all they are cracked up to be. Syntactic Structures was a ground-breaking book. The problem with Noam is that after Syntactic Structures, people stopped challenging him. With no honest feedback, he became loopier and loopier. And the American tenure system means that if you do something great when you're 35, the world is stuck with you for the next 30 years, whether you do anything else good or not (viz. Harold Bloom, who had one good idea in 1973). Chomsky is arrogant and close-minded. I've heard stories from reputable sources that he has corrected native speakers of a language when they say something that doesn't agree with the current version of his theory. But the underlying elements of the theory--d-structure and s-structure and transformations--are accepted by just about everyone in linguistics.

No comments: