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Pattern Theory and Poverty of Stimulus Argument in Linguistics

Pattern Theory and Poverty of Stimulus Argument in Linguistics

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Published by Yuri Tarnopolsky
This paper continues the examination of language as a quasi-molecular system from the point of view of a chemist who happens to ask, “What if the words were atoms?”
This paper continues the examination of language as a quasi-molecular system from the point of view of a chemist who happens to ask, “What if the words were atoms?”

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Yuri Tarnopolsky on Feb 02, 2009
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10/16/2011

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Pattern Theoryand “Poverty of Stimulus” argument in linguistics
Yuri Tarnopolsky
(2004)
 Abstract 
This paper continues the examination of language as a quasi-molecular systemfrom the point of view of a chemist who happens to ask, “What if the words wereatoms?” Any new word in the vocabulary must be at some time heard or read inorder to be acquired. The new word practically always comes linked either withan observed image or with a few other words in a phrase or discourse, otherwise itwould be meaningless at the first encounter. This halo of selective connectionsmakes the morphemes and words recognizable as generators of Pattern Theory(Ulf Grenander), i.e., as atomic objects possessing a certain structure of potential bonds with preferences for binary coupling. In this way the word is typicallyacquired with a fragment of grammar. Metaphorically speaking, the generators of language carry bits of grammar on their bonds like the bees carry pollen on their feet. Regarding Pattern Theory as meta-theory for atoms and words, parallels between linguistics and chemistry are discussed.
 
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CONTENTS
Introduction 31. Sets and Order 52. Laws of grammar and laws of nature 73. From sets to generators 104. Patterns 155. Notes on notation 216. Bonding 267. Acquisition of generators 298. Bond space 309. Acquisition of bond values 3310. Locality 3611. Some examples 3712. Language and homeostasis 41Conclusion 44References 46APPENDIX: The Chemistry of 
The Three Little Pigs
49
 
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Introduction
The idea that children acquire their native language in spite of the lack of either directinstruction or sufficient number of correct or correcting samples goes back to Plato.Starting with this well seasoned “poverty of stimulus” premise, Noam Chomsky postulated the existence of an innate universal grammar (UG), and the entire theory became two postulates, one on the shoulders of the other. Further postulates about thenature of UG (for example, principles and parameters) had to be added to the increasinglyunstable cheerleader pyramid, so that the issue became complicated and hotly debated.Any general course of linguistics, as well as the Web, reflects the war of the words over the tiny piece of intellectual land [1].It seems strange that the problem of language acquisition exists at all. Language isa notation of thought. Why is then mastering notation is separated from acquiringknowledge, logic, and mastering communication with the world? A possible reason isthat we hear what children say but do not see what is going on in their minds.Circumventing this very large and complicated issue, I attempt to look at the bottom postulate of the disputed paradigm: the poverty of stimulus. This unaffiliated paper continues the examination of language as a quasi-molecular system from the point of view of a chemist who, inspired by Mark C. Baker [2], happens to ask, “what if the wordswere atoms?” The paper serves is an addendum to [3], without which some loose endswill hang in the air.

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