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Noam Chomsky / universal grammar

Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, has developed the "universal grammar" theory of language development. Chomsky's theory proposes that the human brain contains a predefined mechanism (universal grammar) that is the basis for the acquisition of all language. In analogy, the brain can be thought of as a kind of partially programmed machine ready to be configured. The configuration comes from encounters with the perceived world through the senses, and thus the corresponding language pattern forms. Chomsky's universal grammar directly parallels the nature of math and science and can be better understood through the following rationalization. It would appear that the derived system of physics, geometry, and various other mathematical schemes fit all too perfectly into the reality of the inner-workings of the world. This perfect fit is a phenomenon which many scholars and philosophers, including Albert Einstein, find difficult to believe could simply be coincidence. It is Chomsky's belief that the reason thought fits so precisely to our world is that the reality of the world is the reality of our minds; they are one and the same. Nature created us - it is what we are, so it would only make sense to have such a correlation. Chomsky sums it up very simply, "I think, yet the world thinks in me".

Chomsky further believes that our connection to the reality of nature has been etched into our subconscious from a time when self-consciousness did not exist, as we are merely creatures refined by natural selection. In the present state of human consciousness, we have further control of our thoughts, but the skeletal remnant of our earlier nature remains and governs our ways. It is the heart of "logic". The intuitive understanding of such universal forces at work is what defines universal grammar. It is buried deep within our minds and is the result of evolution which has mutated and refined our physical and spiritual nature.

Since all humans share the same basic brain structures which house our language abilities and which are the result of natural selection, there are deep similarities between all languages, even if they don't show up in surface grammar. Chinese grammar is quite different from English grammar which is quite different from Finnish grammar. Yet any human is capable of learning any other human language. Someone born to Spanish-speaking parents will pick up Arabic as their first language (if appropriately exposed) just as easily as someone whose birth parents were native speakers of Arabic. Thus, the human brain contains the basic structures needed to learn any language: an inborn universal grammar. This inborn cognitive structure could also account for why mathematics and logic are universally understood and not culturally relative.

--Charlie Tronolone


Sources:

Chomsky, Noam. Essays on form and interpretation. New York: North-Holland, 1977.

Cruse, Don. "Chomsky and the Universal Grammar." Southern Cross Review. Mar 22 2004.
URL = http://www.southerncrossreview.org/9/chomsky.htm

Henry, Charles. "Universal Grammar." Computer & Computational Sciences 3. Mar 22 2004.
URL = http://www.c3.lanl.gov/~rocha/univgram.html

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Noam Chomsky Biography." Mar 22 2004.
http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/biography/noambio.html

Ritchie, William. Handbook of second language acquisition. San Diego: Academic Press, 1996.