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komponisto2 comments on Detached Lever Fallacy - Less Wrong

26 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 July 2008 06:57PM

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Comment author: komponisto2 01 August 2008 06:55:07AM 1 point [-]

Growing human brains are wired to learn syntactic language - even when syntax doesn't exist in the original language, the conditional response to the words in the environment is a syntactic language with those words.

This, under the name "universal grammar", is the insight that Noam Chomsky is famous for.

At the risk of revealing my identity, I recall getting into an argument about this with Michael Vassar at the NYC meetup back in March (I think it was). If memory serves, we were talking at cross-purposes: I was trying to make the case that the discipline of theoretical ("Chomskian") linguistics, whose aim is to describe the cognitive input-response system that goes by the name of the "human language faculty", teaches us not to regard individual languages such as English or French as Platonic entities, but rather merely as ad-hoc labels for certain classes of utterances. Vassar, it seemed (and he's of course welcome to correct me if I'm misremembering), took me to be arguing for the Platonicity of some more abstract notion of "human language".