Another attack on UG (plus – 65,000 verb forms!)

13 Apr

There’s a fascinating interview in the Guardian’s Science Weekly Podcast with Daniel Everett, academic and linguist, who’s spent a lot of time working with the Pirahã people in the Amazon, and has concluded amongst other things, that his findings do not bear out Chomsky’s claims for Universal Grammar.

It should be pointed out that Everett has held these views and promulgated them for some time, this interview seems to have arisen in relation to Everett’s latest book:  Cognitive Fire – Language as a cultural tool, in which Everett says he dissects and discards the arguments for UG before proposing an alternative model.  Chomsky has apparently called Everett a charlatan and refuses to further discuss his work….

The interview with Everett takes up the first 15 minutes or so of the Science Weekly Podcast.

PS – the 65,000 verb forms is a quote from the interview – Everett points out that in English, most verbs have 9 different forms, but in Pirahã, they have 65,000.  And you thought learning English was hard!!!!

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2 Responses to “Another attack on UG (plus – 65,000 verb forms!)”

  1. Stephen Greene Friday 13 April 2012 at 15:13 #

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but here is a great article that tries to summarise the positions at the moment; http://chronicle.com/article/Researchers-Findings-in-the/131260/ Well worth a read of you haven’t done so already.

  2. zach123 Monday 26 November 2012 at 11:31 #

    Everett made a presentation that you can find on YouTube. What assumptions does he make to arrive at exactly his 2^16 possible verb forms? Wouldn’t this imply the following general form: [VERB ROOT] + [x1 or y1] + [x2 or y2] + [x3 or y3] …. [x16 or y16]. Why are there 2 possibilities at each agglutination? I’m sure that he’s right, but I’m baffled at how he reached the answer.

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