27 April, 2006

Noam Chomsky--Wrong Again!

Pleasures in the academic world can be few and far between, if only because the polerization of debate has made the environment acrimonious (particularly if one chooses to refrain from drinking the Kool-Aid). But discoveries are always exciting, especially the ones that revolutionize our engrained ways of thinking and enables us to re-evaluate how we percieve our world and our place in it.

Enter a joint UChicago/UC San Diego study, which demonstrates that a "uniquely human" component of language is in fact, not so unique at all. In this study scientists discovered that pattern recognition, which linguists such as Chomsky had always assumed was a trait only found in humans, can be found in starlings communications as well.

Beyond advancing our understanding of whats makes us human, the mental world of animals and the operations/processes of language, this study is an exceptional delight because it most certainly proves Noam Chomsky wrong, which is always a wonderful event in itself. It was Chomsky, as a lead theorist, who distinguished "recursive center-embedding" as a particular feature of human language computation, and it was the "Chomsky hierarchy" that linguists had used as a framework for their theories/positions. And now it is Chomsky whose work has been discredited.

How exciting! Here's a blfffph to you, Mr. Chomsky.

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