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Saturday, September 24. 2016
Because that turns out to be wrong too. Much of Noam Chomsky’s revolution in linguistics—including its account of the way we learn languages—is being overturned
If interested in language, Roger Brown's fascinating 1968 Words and Things can't be beat.
Posted by The Barrister in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 13:58 | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)
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I got stuck many years ago in computing science studies being forced to learn about Chomsky's trivial work in classifying formal languages.
Turns out Alan Turing and Marcel-Paul Schützenberger did the real work.
Chomsky is the perfect Intellectual yet Idiot. https://medium.com/@nntaleb/the-intellectual-yet-idiot-13211e2d0577#.p92wg9wjz
The Barrister: Chomsky was wrong
All models are wrong, but some are useful. — George E.P. Box
Yes. A simple model that only approximates reality is wrong but useful. On the other hand, one that does not is almost useless.
Since Chomsky's did not approximate reality, they were useful only to be found out later they were wrong. In other words, about as useful as theories that the world was flat.
The theory held up for decades, and guided research during the interim.
mudbug: Apparently in the wrong direction.
It became the standard against which new evidence was measured.
Consider Einstein's work to undermine quantum theory, in particular, the EPR thought experiment. Einstein was wrong, but EPR led to physical experiments that showed how he was wrong.
The theory that the world was flat held up for centuries and guided research in the interim.
mudbug: The theory that the world was flat held up for centuries and guided research in the interim.
The Relativity of Wrong: "when people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."
As you remind us, Box said that all models are wrong but some are useful. Models are wrong basically because they are not complete; at best, they only approximate reality. Those that don't approximate reality are wrong too, but are not useful.
Chomsky's theories were wrong. They were wrong differently from the way Einstein's theory of relativity was wrong or the way Newton was wrong. Newton was close, Einstein was closer. Neither was discredited but Chomsky was.
The theory that the world was flat did not in and of itself propel the understanding of the world. It was the people who proved it wrong who did that. As I said, his only contribution was to promote a bad theory so people could refute it and promote a good one.
mudbug: Chomsky's theories were wrong.
There is still some uncertainty. While Chomsky's specifics may have been off, the basic concept still has support. See Ding et al., Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech, Nature Neuroscience 2015.
mudbug: They were wrong differently from the way Einstein's theory of relativity
The example was Einstein's views of quantum theory, which were exactly wrong, but his ideas helped propel research into answering the questions he raised.
Yup. And the notion Progressivism isn't a bad religion held up for centuries and wrecked whole nations in the interim.
The idea that refuting the latest Z-Bot machine language inanity automatically constitutes hand-waving interfered with normal human reason for months and molded blog comments in the interim.
I may be getting the hang of this.
And some are not....*cough..cough*....global warming..hack..hack..
I'll have to read up on this. I had accepted the general outline of his theories of language acquisition, but the drumbeat is intensifying.
His forays in to politics were full of mistakes. His pronouncements on the killings in Cambodia were readily discredited.
I picked up a Chomsky book on Latin America from a Little Library- no cost to me and no revenue to him.[Year 501: The Conquest Continues] As I am somewhat knowledgeable about Latin America, I could better evaluate Chomsky than the average reader.
Chomsky did not evaluate information very well. For example Chomsky claimed that the public health record of the Pinochet regime was disastrous. The overall record says otherwise. From page 190:
Per capita health care was more than halved from 1973 to 1985, setting off explosive growth in poverty-related diseases such as typhoid and viral hepatitisFrom 1973 to 1985 , Chile's rank in Life Expectancy went from 8th in to 6th in Latin America. During that time, Chile's rank in Infant mortality went from 9th to 3rd in Latin America. Not very disastrous at all. [Romance-language speaking countries.] It doesn't make sense that Chile would outperform Latin America in improving Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality and still have "explosive growth in poverty-related diseases." Not at all.
World Bank: World Development Indicators
Chomsky is the Linguistics version of Economic's Krugman - just because you're famous in one area doesn't mean you know jack in other areas.
Krugman, the former economist, aptly demonstrates this fact.
"Chomsky is the Linguistics version of Economic's Krugman - just because you're famous in one area doesn't mean you know jack in other areas."
Oh, you made me laugh! Great comparison. The only problem is that Chomsky didn't know jack about language acquisition either. Anyone who has raised babies -- human or otherwise -- or dealt with people who have undergone severe brain trauma knows that the brain is continually processing stimuli and developing methods of resetting itself. The computer has not yet been designed to duplicate the process. The same goes for his developing theories on the biological basis; none hold water. His arrogant extension into other fields just becomes annoying because he refuses to consider anyone else's theories and give credit where it's due.
Regarding the flaw in my analogy, I agree - please allow me some poetic license. Further, Krugman's post-Nobel statements (which are based on his leftist agenda rather than being supported by facts and logic) have often contradicted his reasoned pre-Nobel economics - hence the moniker hung on him by Cliff Asness, "former economist."
I have to defend Chomsky with scientific his work because as a scientifically trained person myself I am very aware that a theory of work can be completely and utterly 180 degrees wrong yet still contribute to scientific understanding.
On the politics front I must say that his media theories seem to also cut both ways and has certainly helped me in understanding how the current MSM works against our interests.
i dislike ol' noam chomsky, but at least he usurped the behaviorists by acknowledging the genetic-biological underpinnings of human development - the (biological denier) behaviorists claimed human development was learned!
in an interview for grad school (while still in the military) i made the mistake of referring to noam chomsky as "norm chomsky" - i blew that interview!