Chomsky Versus: non-nativist link fest

We’ve scheduled a debate today in my intro to linguistics section. The topic is something like “Human beings have an innate, language-specific capacity.” My co-TA, a syntactician, is arguing the “pro” side, and I’m “con.”

Here are the sources I’m looking at so far:

That should be enough for a 10-minute presentation to an undergrad class, but now that I’ve started reading, my interest is piqued. What sources would you recommend?

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3 comments on “Chomsky Versus: non-nativist link fest
  1. dwtii says:

    I was just looking at Daniel Everett’s Language: The Cultural Tool (Pantheon, 2012) at Kramerbooks the other day and my interest was piqued. He started out as a Chomskyite but has become a prominent critic of the idea that there are any specially adapted cognitive linguistic faculties, taking on Steven Pinker’s language instinct as well. Apparently his major revelation came from anthropological linguistic studies of the Pirahã people of Brazil. Apparently his article, “Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã” (Current Anthropology, vol. 46, no. 4, August-October 2005, pp. 621-46, http://www.icsi.berkeley.edu/~kay/Everett.CA.Piraha.pdf) has caused considerable controversy and was the subject of a special issue (vol. 85, no. 2, June 2009) of Language, The Journal of the Linguistic Society of America. Do you know anything about him? He sounds like an unusual guy. The New Yorker profiled him in 2007 (Colapinto, John, “The Interpreter: Has a remote Amazonian tribe upended our understanding of language?”, The New Yorker, 16 April 2007, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_colapinto). But I can’t quite tell how seriously I should take him.

  2. dwtii says:

    Oh, wait a minute, you’re already all over it. The Chronicle of Higher Education piece is all about the controversy. I’ll read that first, but what’s your read on Everett? Is his book worth reading?

  3. dwtii says:

    Unusual. Dan Cohen just happens to be tweeting about the Everett-Chomsky Chronicle of Higher Education piece today as well.

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