The Minimalist Program
Noam Chomsky, 1995

Well Established Conclusions?
In the
Introduction , Chomsky goes on to describe the usual assumptions he has made regarding the structure of language. These include his "well established" position that the language faculty must consist of two parts, a competence system and a performance system. Here, the competence system seems to be identified with a cognitive system, that "stores information". The performance system operates on and with that information to produce linguistic behavior.

I have not yet finished the book and my understanding will no doubt evolve as I proceed, but it is my current impression the the Minimalist Program centers around the "Principles and Parameters" model, the essence of which is that the grammar is constructed in such a way that a child does not need to learn transformational rules as in earlier models, but rather has prewired options for how to build the grammar. The task of learning a language is then to learn a particular set of options which then control the innate system so as to generate the "well established" syntactic structures required to speak that language.

It remains a complete mystery how the DNA might possibly specify the (either latent or fully developed) grammatical structure required to use the language, once learned. Chomsky, at least, and a fair number of other linguists as well, profess a lack of interest in this question. Chomsky remains dedicated to his well established goals of providing a descriptive framework for the theoretical structures of language, not of discovering how the brain does it.


Top of Page | TMP Summary | Sort by Topic | Sort by Title | Sort by Author