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Reexamining the Foundations of Generative Linguistics

Ray Jackendoff, Brandeis University


The Chomskyan revolution of the 1960s had a strong effect on the emergence and evolution of cognitive science. However, in the past decade, generative linguistics has had little serious interaction with the other cognitive sciences. I will suggest that Chomsky's 1965 foundational arguments for the innateness of the language capacity are correct and still of great relevance to understanding the brain. However, in retrospect, certain aspects of the realization of these arguments within generative linguistics can be seen as mistakes -- in particular the treatment of the competence-performance distinction, the centrality of syntax, and the marginalization of semantics. When these issues are addressed properly, on the one hand the architecture of generative grammar looks quite different, but on the other hand the way is open for more fruitful dialogue with theories of brain function.

Ipke Wachsmuth, 1998-09-07