Lecture | Shimon Edelman | Verbal Behavior without Syntactic Structures: Language beyond Skinner and Chomsky
What does it mean to know language? Since the Chomskian revolution, one popular answer to this question has been: to possess a generative grammar that exclusively licenses certain syntactic structures. Decades later, not even an approximation to such a grammar, for any language, has been formulated; the idea that grammar is universal and innately specified has proved barren; and attempts to show how it could be learned from experience invariably come up short. To move on from this impasse, we must rediscover the extent to which language is like any other human behavior: dynamic, social, multimodal, patterned, and purposive, its purpose being to promote desirable actions (or thoughts) in others and self. Recent psychological, computational, neurobiological, and evolutionary insights into the shaping and structure of behavior may then point us toward a new, viable account of language.