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Nativism: Noam Chomsky. Nativism. Main question: what is the cognitive code? Infant is born with complete world knowledge Infants count Infants have a concept of objects Infants have physics concepts Infants have language. Nativism. Evidence for the claim of complete world knowledge

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Nativism: Noam Chomsky

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Nativism noam chomsky l.jpg

Nativism: Noam Chomsky


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Nativism

  • Main question: what is the cognitive code?

  • Infant is born with complete world knowledge

    • Infants count

    • Infants have a concept of objects

    • Infants have physics concepts

    • Infants have language


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Nativism

  • Evidence for the claim of complete world knowledge

    • Youngsters learn an extremely complex system (language) effortlessly

    • Youngsters learn an extremely complex system (language) in a short amount of time

    • Youngsters do not need instruction to learn their mother tongue


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Nativism

  • Do youngsters who are born deaf can learn an impoverished language at a level that is higher than the level they hear?

  • Youngsters develop Creole from pidgin

  • Infants do not hear grammar; they hear a string of words and infer the syntactic rules language (impoverishment of the stimulus)

  • Infants often hear ungrammatical sentences, yet they learn the grammar


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Nativism: Learning Paradox

  • Fodor’s learning paradox: one learns something only if one knows it in advance

  • To learn a language you have to know that language in advance

  • What you know is at a higher level than what you learn


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Nativism

  • In the case of language, infants are born with:

    • a universal grammar (UG) - a data base of grammar

    • language acquisition device (LAD) - hypothesis tester


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Nativism

  • If the child is born with a LAD and no UG, he doesn’t have anything to hypothesize on

  • If the child is born with a UG and no LAD, he cannot hypothesize about the language


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Nativism

  • The UG is the cognitive code.

    • Unique to humans

    • Universal for humans

  • If one can describe it, one has cracked the cognitive code.


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Nativism

  • Relations between learning and development

    • Only learning (deductive)

    • No development

  • Similar to classical behaviorism


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Nativism: Language Acquisition Device

  • hypothesize the grammar in the language you are exposed to

  • see if the hypothesis fits the grammar

  • if yes, continue with the hypothesis

  • if no, make a new hypothesis


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Nativism

  • If that is how children learn language, it is impossible, in principle, to develop to a higher level

    • How can you hypothesize something that is not already there?

  • Nativists say you cannot


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Nativism

  • As a consequence, it is best to build the most powerful system so that it is there in infancy


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Argument between Piaget and Chomsky

  • CHOMSKY’S POINT:

  • Chomsky: One cannot construct more powerful structures because hypothesis testing cannot take place at a level that is higher than one’s highest level

    e.g., conservation: a child cannot hypothesize conservation if he is at the intuitive stage


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Argument between Piaget and Chomsky

  • Chomsky: One cannot construct more powerful structures because hypothesis testing cannot take place at a level that is higher than one’s highest level

    • Fodor’s learning paradox

      e.g., conservation: a child cannot hypothesize conservation if he is at the intuitive stage


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Piaget Rebuttal

  • Piaget: I don’t have to accept hypothesis testing as the mechanism for learning

  • I believe children learn and develop through disequilibrium


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Piaget Rebuttal

  • I can describe learning and development in

    • Child development (ontogeny)

    • History of disciplines (Piaget & Garcia; Kuhn)

  • My system allows me to describe two disparate developments: ontogeny and historical development


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Piaget Rebuttal

  • You, the nativists cannot describe the development of disciplines in history in terms of innate modules within humans

  • Bottom line:

    • I can describe two developments and you can describe one

    • I don’t believe the description you give to language acquisition


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Nativism: Modularity

1. Encapsulation - it is impossible to interfere with the inner workings of a module.2. Unconscious - it is difficult or impossible to reflect on the operations of module.3. Speed - modules are very fast.4. Shallow outputs - modules provide limited output, without information about theintervening steps that led to that output.


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Nativism: Modularity

5. Obligatory firing - modules operate reflexively, providing predetermined outputs for predetermined inputs regardless of thecontext.6. Ontogenetic universals - modules develop in a characteristic sequence.7. Localization - modules are mediated by dedicated neural systems.


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Nativism: Modularity

8. Pathological universals - modules breakdown in characteristic fashion following insult to the system.9. Domain specificity - as discussed above.


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