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For language use is i stimulus independent and ii historically unbound. Language use is stimulus independent : virtually any words can be spoken in response to any environmental stimulus, depending on one's state of mind. Language use is also historically unbound : what we say is not determined by our history of reinforcement, as is clear from the fact that we can and do say things that we have not been trained to say. The same points apply to comprehension.

We can understand sentences we have never heard before, even when they are spoken in odd or unexpected situations. And how we react to the utterances of others is again dependent largely on our state of mind at the time, rather than any past history of training. Mastery of language is not a matter of having a bunch of mere behavioral dispositions. Instead, it involves a wealth of pragmatic, semantic and syntactic knowledge. What we say in a given circumstance, and how we respond to what others say, is the result of a complex interaction between our history, our beliefs about our current situation, our desires, and our knowledge of how our language works.

His second big mistake was related to this one: he failed to recognize that acquiring mastery of a language is not a matter of being trained what to say. Explicit training such as a dog receives when learning to bark on command is simply not a feature of language acquisition. It's only comparatively rarely that parents correct or explicitly reward their children's linguistic sorties; children learn much of what they know about language from watching TV or passively listening to adults; immigrant children learn a second language to native speaker fluency in the school playground; and even very young children are capable of linguistic innovation, saying things undreamt of by their parents.

In order, for example, to acquire the appropriate set of dispositions concerning the word car , one would have to be trained on vast numbers of sentences containing that word: one would have to hear car in object position and car in subject position; car modified by adjectives and car unmodified; car embedded in opaque contexts e. Instead, Chomsky argued, what determines one's dispositions to use car is one's knowledge of that word's syntactic and semantic properties e.

So even if language mastery were in part a matter of having dispositions concerning car , the mechanism of conditioning would be unable to give rise to them. The training set to which children have access is simply too limited: it doesn't contain enough of the right sorts of exemplars.

In sum: Skinner was mistaken on all counts. Language mastery is not merely a matter of having a set of bare behavioral dispositions. Instead, it involves intricate and detailed knowledge of the properties of one's language. And language learning is not a matter of being trained what to say. Instead, children learn language just from hearing it spoken around them, and they learn it effortlessly, rapidly, and without much in the way of overt instruction. These insights were to drive linguistic theorizing for the next fifty years, and it's worth emphasizing just how radical and exciting they were at the time.

First, the idea that explaining language use involves attributing knowledge to speakers flouted the prevailing behaviorist view that talking about mental states was unscientific because mental states are unobservable. It also raised several pressing empirical question that linguists are still debating. For example, what is the content of speakers' knowledge of language? And how does this knowledge actually function in the psychological processes of language production and comprehension: what are the mechanisms of language use? Secondly, the idea that children learn language essentially on their own was a radical challenge to the prevailing behaviorist idea that all learning involves reinforcement.

As we will see in the next section, Chomsky was ready with a theory addressing each of these points. Like the behaviorists, the structuralists e. In his landmark book, Syntactic Structures , however, Chomsky argued that because corpora can contain only finitely many sentences, no attempt at reduction can succeed. Linguists need theoretical constructs that capture regularities going beyond the set of actual utterances, and that allow them to predict the properties of novel utterances.

But if the category NP, for instance, is to include noun phrases that haven't been uttered yet, the meaning of noun phrase can't be exhausted by what's in the corpus: the structuralists' positivistic strictures on theoretical kinds are misguided. This information can be represented via a tree-diagram, as in Fig. Figure 1. Phrasemarkers representing a sentence as consisting of a noun phrase and a verb phrase via a a tree diagram or b a labeled bracketing. Chomsky argued on technical grounds; see Chomsky , ch. Hence, Chomsky urged the development of generative grammars of this type.

Syntactic theory has now gone well beyond this early vision — both phrase structure and transformation rules were abandoned in successive linguistic revolutions wrought by Chomsky and his students and colleagues see Newmeyer , for a history of generative linguistics. But what has not changed — and what is important for our purposes — is that in every version of the grammar of say English, the rules governing the syntactic structure of sentences and phrases are stated in terms of syntactic categories that are highly abstracted from the properties of utterances that are accessible to experience.

As an example of this, consider the notion of a trace.

Language acquisition

Traces are symbols that appear in phrasemarkers and mark the path of an element as it is moved from one position to another at various stages of a sentence's derivation, as in 1 , where t i markes the NP Jacob 's position at an earlier stage in the derivation. See Chomsky and Lasnik and Uriagereka for more on traces and other empty categories. Traces and other similarly abstract properties of languages thus raise a question for the theory of language acquisition.

As a consequence, children's feat in learning a language appears miraculous: how could a child learn the myriad rules governing linguistic expression given only her exposure to the sentences spoken around her? In response to this question, most 20th century theorists followed Chomsky in holding that language acquisition could not occur unless much of the knowledge eventually attained were innate or inborn. The gap between what speaker-hearers know about language its grammar, among other things and the data they have access to during learning the pld is just too broad to be bridged by any process of learning alone.

Learning a particular language thus becomes the comparatively simple matter of elaborating upon this antecedently possessed knowledge, and hence appears a much more tractable task for young children to attempt. Over the years, two conceptions of the innate contribution to language learning and its elaboration during the learning process have been proposed. In earlier writings e. He saw this knowledge as being embodied in a suite of innate linguistic abilities, concepts, and constraints on the kinds of grammatical rules learners can propose for testing.


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By the 's, a less intellectualized conception of how language is acquired began to supplant the hypothesis-testing model. The innate UG was no longer viewed as a set of tools for inference; rather, it was conceived as a highly articulated set of representations of actual grammatical principles. Of course, since not everyone ends up speaking the same language, these innate representations must allow for some variation.

To illustrate how parameter setting works, consider a simplified example discussed in more detail in Chomsky All languages require that sentences have subjects, but whereas some languages like English require that the subject be overt in the utterance, other languages like Spanish allow you to leave the subject out of the sentence when it is written or spoken.

Roeper and Williams is the locus classicus for parameter-setting models; Ayoun is more up-to-date; Pinker, ch. These two approaches to language acquisition clearly differ significantly in their conception of the nature of the learning process and the learner's role in it, but we are not concerned to evaluate their respective merits here. Rather, the important point for our purposes is that they both attribute substantial amounts of innate information about language to the language learner.

We will focus on the following question:. Terminological Note: As Chomsky acknowledges e. This ambiguity is important when one is evaluating Chomskyan claims that we have innate knowledge of UG. On the second reading, however, it is possible that learners have innate knowledge of language without that knowledge's being knowledge of UG as currently described by linguists : learners might know things about language, yet not know Binding Theory, or the Principle of Structure Dependence, etc.

The reverse, however, is not the case: there might be reason to think that a speaker knows something about language innately, without its constituting reason to think that what they know is Universal Grammar as described by Chomksyan linguists; Chomksy might be right that we have innate knowledge about language, but wrong about what the content of that knowledge is. These issues will be clarified, as necessary, below. Since language mastery involves knowledge of grammar, and since grammatical rules are defined over properties of utterances that are not accessible to experience, language learning must be more like theory-building in science.

However, argued Chomsky, just as conditioning was too weak a learning strategy to account for children's ability to acquire language, so too is the kind of inductive inference or hypothesis-testing that goes on in science. Successful scientific theory-building requires huge amounts of data, both to suggest plausible-seeming hypotheses and to weed out any false ones. The first type of inadequacy is, of course, endemic to any kind of empirical inquiry: it is simply the problem of the underdetermination of theories by their evidence.

Cowie has argued elsewhere that underdetermination per se cannot be taken to be evidence for nativism: if it were, we would have to be nativists about everything that people learn Cowie ; What of the second kind of impoverishment? If the evidence about language available to children does not enable them to reject false hypotheses, and if they nonetheless hit on the correct grammar, then language learning could not be a kind of scientific inquiry, which depends in part on being able to find evidence to weed out incorrect theories.

And indeed, this is what Chomsky argues: since the pld are not sufficiently rich or varied to enable a learner to arrive at the correct hypothesis about the grammar of the language she is learning, language could not be learned from the pld. For consider: The fact i that the pld are finite whereas natural languages are infinite shows that children must be generalizing beyond the data when they are learning their language's grammar: they must be proposing rules that cover as-yet unheard utterances.

This, however, opens up room for error. In order to recover from particular sorts of error, children would need access to particular kinds of data. If those data don't exist, as ii asserts, then children would not be able to correct their mistakes. Thus, since children do eventually converge on the correct grammar for their language, they mustn't be making those sorts of errors in the first place: something must be stopping them from making generalizations that they cannot correct on the basis of the pld. Chomsky e. As Chomsky puts it:. Chomsky rarely states the argument from the poverty of the stimulus in its general form, as Cowie has done here.

Instead, he typically presents it via an example. She wants to figure out the rule you use to turn declaratives like 1a and 2a into interrogatives like 1b and 2b. Here are two possibilities:. Both hypotheses are adequate to account for the data the learner has so far encountered.

Nonetheless, H 1 is false, as is evident when you look at examples like 3 :. H 1 generates the ungrammatical question 3b , whereas H 2 generates the correct version, 3c. That we know this is evident, Chomsky argues, from the fact that we all know that 3b is not the right way to say 3c. The question is how we could have learnt this. Suppose, for example, that based on her experience of 1 and 2 , a child were to adopt H 1. How would she discover her error? There would seem to be two ways to do this.

First, she could use H 1 in her own speech, utter a sentence like 3b , and be corrected by her parents or caregivers; second, she could hear a sentence like 3c uttered by a competent speaker, and realize that that sentence is not generated by her hypothesis, H 1. So in answer to the question: how do we learn that H 2 is better than H 1 , Chomsky argued that we don't learn this at all! A better explanation of how we all know that H 2 is right and H 1 is wrong is that we were born knowing this fact. In sum, we know that H 2 is a better rule than H 1 , but we didn't learn this from our experience of the language.

Rather, this fact is a consequence of our inborn knowledge of UG. Chomskyans contest that there are many other cases in which speaker-hearers know grammatical rules, the critical evidence in favor of which is missing from the pld. Pullum and Scholz , discuss two other well known examples. Nativists thus conclude that numerous other principles of UG are innately known as well.

Together, these UG principles place strong constraints on learners' linguistic theorizing, preventing them from making errors for which there are no falsifying data. So endemic is the impoverishment of the pld , according to Chomskyans, that it began to seem as if the entire learning paradigm were inapplicable to language. As more and more and stricter and stricter innate constraints needed to be imposed on the learner's hypothesis space to account for their learning rules in the absence of relevant data, notions like hypothesis generation and testing seemed to have less and less purchase.

Many, probably most theorists in modern linguistics and cognitive science have accepted Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument for the innateness of UG. As a result, a commitment to linguistic nativism has underpinned most research into language acquisition over the last odd years. Nonetheless, it is important to understand what criticisms have been leveled against the argument, which I schematize as follows for convenience:. In response, Chomsky e. However, while it is certainly legitimate to propose a special relationship between speakers and grammars, unanswered questions remain about the precise nature of cognizance.

Is it a representational relation, like belief? See the papers collected in MacDonald , for discussion of this last issue; see Devitt for arguments that there is no good reason to suppose that speakers use any representations of grammatical rules in their production and comprehension of language. These issues bear on the argument from the poverty of the stimulus because that argument may appear more or less impressive depending on the answers one gives to them.

If, for instance, one held that grammars are belief-like entities, explicitly represented in our heads in some internal code cf. Stich , then the question of how those beliefs are acquired and justified is indeed a pressing one — as, for different reasons, is the question of how they function in performance see Harman , Or if, to take a third possibility, one were to reject generative syntax altogether and adopt a different conception of what the content of speakers' grammatical knowledge is — along the lines of Tomasello , say — then that again affects how one views the learning process.

In other words, one's ideas about what is learned affect one's conception of what is needed to learn it. In the example of polar interrogatives, discussed above, we saw how children apparently require explicit falsifying evidence in order to rule out the plausible-seeming but false hypothesis, H 1. Premiss 2 of the argument generalizes this claim: there are many instances in which learners need specific kinds of falsifying data to correct their mistakes data that the argument goes on to assert are unavailable. These claims about the data learners would need in order to learn grammar are underpinned by certain assumptions about the learning algorithm they employ.

For example, the idea that false hypotheses are rejected only when they are explicitly falsified in the data suggests that learners are incapable of taking any kind of probabilistic or holistic approach to confirmation and disconfirmation. Likewise, the idea that learners unequipped with inborn knowledge of UG are very likely indeed to entertain false hypotheses suggests that their method of generating hypotheses is insensitive to background information or past experience.


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  • The non-nativist language learner as envisaged by Chomsky in the original version of the poverty of the stimulus argument, in other words, is limited to a kind of Popperian methodology — one that involves the enumeration of all possible grammatical hypotheses, each of which is tested against the data, and each of is rejected just in case it is explicitly falsified.

    As much work in philosophy of science over the last half century has indicated, though, nothing much of anything can be learned by this method: the world quite generally fails to supply falsifying evidence. Instead, hypothesis generation must be inductively based, and dis confirmation is a holistic matter.

    Thus arise two problems for the Chomskyan argument. First, it is not all that surprising to discover that if language learners employed a method of conjecture and refutation, then language could not be learned from the data. In other words, the poverty of the stimulus argument doesn't tell us much we didn't know already. Secondly, and as a result, the argument is quite weak: it makes the negative point that language acquisition does not occur via a Popperian learning strategy, but it favors no specific alternative to this acquisition theory.

    In particular, the argument gives no more support to a nativist UG-based theory than to one that proposed say that learners formulate grammatical hypotheses based on their extraction of statistical information about the pld and that they may reject them for reasons other than outright falsification — because they lack explicit confirmation, or because they do not cohere with other parts of the grammar, for instance.

    In reply, some Chomskyans e. It's pointless, they claim, for nativists to try to argue against theories that are mere gleams in the empiricist's eye, particularly when Chomsky's approach has been so fruitful and thus may be supported by a powerful inference to the best explanation. Others have argued explicitly against particular non-nativist theories — Marcus , , for instance, discusses the shortcomings of connectionist accounts of language acquisition.

    A recent book by Michael Tomasello Tomasello addresses the nativist's demand for an alternative theory directly. Tomasello argues that language learners acquire knowledge of syntax by using inductive, analogical and statistical learning methods, and by examining a broader range of data for the purposes of confirmation and disconfirmation.

    Tomasello's theory differs from a Chomskyan approach in three important respects. First, and taking up a point mentioned in the previous section, it employs a different conception of linguistic competence, the end state of the learning process. Rather than thinking of competent speakers as representing the rules of grammar in the maximally abstract, simple and elegant format devised by generative linguists, Tomasello conceives of them as employing rules at a variety of different levels of abstraction, and, importantly, as employing rules that are not formulated in purely syntactic terms.

    For generative linguists, the pld comprises a set of sentences, perhaps subject to some preliminary syntactic analysis, and the child learning grammar is thought of as embodying a function which maps that set of sentences onto the generative grammar for her language. On Tomasello's conception, the pld includes not just a set of sentences, but also facts about how sentences are used by speakers to fulfill their communicative intentions. On his view, semantic and contextual information is also used by children for the purposes of acquiring grammatical knowledge.

    This gives rise to a third important respect in which Tomasello's theory differs from that of the linguistic nativist. On his view, children learn language without the aid of any inborn linguistic information: what children bring to the language learning task — their innate endowment — is not language-specific.

    These skills include: i the ability to share attention with others; ii the ability to discern others' intentions including their communicative intentions ; iii the perceptual ability to segment the speech stream into identifiable units at different levels of abstraction; and iv general reasoning skills, such as the ability to recognize patterns of various sorts in the world, the ability to make analogies between patterns that are similar in certain respects, and the ability to perform certain sorts of statistical analysis of these patterns.

    Thus, Tomasello's theory contrasts strongly with the nativist approach. Although assessing Tomasello's theory of language acquisition is beyond the scope of this entry, this much can be said: the oft-repeated charge that empiricists have failed to provide comprehensive, testable alternatives to Chomskyanism is no longer sustainable, and if the what and how of language acquisition are along the lines that Tomasello describes, then the motivation for linguistic nativism largely disappears.

    A third problem with the poverty of the stimulus argument is that there has been little systematic attempt to provide empirical evidence supporting its assertions about what the pld contain. This is an old complaint cf. Sampson which has recently been renewed with some vigor by Pullum and Scholz , Scholz and Pullum , and Sampson Pullum and Scholz provide evidence that, contrary to what Chomsky asserts in his discussion of polar interrogatives, children can expect to encounter plenty of data that would alert them to the falsity of H 1.

    Chomskyans respond in two main ways to findings like this. First, they argue, it is not enough to show that some children can be expected to hear sentences like Is the girl in the jumping castle Kayley's daughter? All children learn the correct rule, so the claim must be that all children are guaranteed to hear sentences of this form — and this claim is still implausible, data like those just discussed notwithstanding.

    Is complex grammar linked to sophisticated thoughts?

    Sampson ff. He notes that in addition to supporting Chomsky's claims about the poverty of the pld , such data simultaneously problematize his claims about children's knowledge of the auxiliary-fronting rule itself. Sampson found that speakers invariably made errors when apparently attempting to produce complex auxiliary-fronted questions, and often emended their utterance to a tag form instead e. Hespeculates that the construction is not idiomatic even in adult language, and that speakers learn to form and decode such questions much later in life, after encountering them in written English.

    If that were the case, then the lack of complex auxiliary fronted questions in the pld would be both unsurprising and unproblematic: young children don't hear the sentences, but nor do they learn the rule. To my knowledge, children's competence with the auxiliary fronting rule has not been addressed empirically.

    Secondly, Chomskyans may produce other versions of the poverty of the stimulus argument. For instance, Crain constructs a poverty of the stimulus argument concerning children's acquisition of knowledge of certain constraints on movement. However, while Crain's argument carefully documents children's conformity to the relevant grammatical rules, its nativist conclusion still relies on unsubstantiated intuitions as to the non-occurrence of relevant forms or evidence in the pld.

    It is thus inconclusive. Crain ; Crain's experiments and their implications are discussed in Cowie ; Cf. The argument from 1 , 2 , and 3 to 4 appears valid. What 4 concludes, however, is that G is unlearnable, period, from the pld — a move that several authors, particularly connectionists, have objected to. See especially Elman et al. Chomskyans typically take this point, conceding that the argument from the poverty of the stimulus is not apodeictic. Nonetheless, they claim, it's a very good argument, and the burden of proof belongs with their critics.

    After all, nativists have shown the falsity of the only non-nativist acquisition theories that are well-enough worked out to be empirically testable, namely, Skinnerian behaviorism and Popperian conjecture and refutation. In addition, they have proposed an alternative theory, Chomskyan nativism, which is more than adequate to account for the phenomena.

    In empirical science, this is all that they can reasonably be required to do. The fact that there might be other possible acquisition algorithms which might account for children's ability to learn language is neither here nor there; nativists are not required to argue against mere possibilities. In response, some non-nativists have argued that UG-based theories are not in fact good theories of language acquisition.

    Tomasello ff. Second, there is the problem of developmental change, also emphasized by Sokolov and Snow, It is difficult to see how UG-based approaches can account for the fact that children's linguistic performance seems to emerge piecemeal over time, rather than emerging in adult-like form all at once, as the parameter-setting model suggests it should.

    At the very least, such objections serve to equalize the burden of proof: non-nativists certainly have work to do, but so too do nativists. Nativists need to show how their theory can account for the known course of language acquisition. Merely pointing out that there is a possibility that such theories are true, and that they would, if true, explain how language learning occurs in the face of an allegedly impoverished stimulus, is only part of the job.

    Because they are defending the view that all of UG is inborn, Chomskyans must be credited with holding that the primary data are impoverished quite generally. That is, if the innateness of UG tout court is to be supported by poverty of the stimulus considerations, the idea must be that the cases that nativists discuss in detail polar interrogatives, complex auxiliaries, etc. Nativists quite reasonably do not attempt to defend this claim by endless enumeration of cases.

    Some possible hypotheses must be ruled out a priori. But, critics allege, what does not follow from this is any particular view about the nature of the requisite constraints. Cowie ch. A fortiori, what does not follow from this is the view that Universal Grammar construed as a theory about the structural properties common to all natural languages, per Terminological Note 2 above is inborn.

    For all the poverty of the stimulus argument shows, the constraints in question might indeed be language-specific and innate, but with contents quite different from those proposed in current theories of UG. Or, the constraints might be innate, but not language-specific. For instance, as Tomasello argues, children's early linguistic theorizing appears to be constrained by their inborn abilities to share attention with others and to discern others' communicative intentions. On his view, a child's early linguistic hypotheses are based on the assumption that the person talking to him is attempting to convey information about the thing s that they are both currently attending to.

    Another alternative is that the constraints might be learned, that is, derived from past experiences. An example again comes from Tomasello He argues that entrenchment , or the frequency with which a linguistic element has been used with a certain communicative function, is an important constraint on the development of children's later syntactic knowledge.

    For instance, it has been shown experimentally that the more often a child hears an element used for a particular communicative purpose, the less likely she is to extend that element to new contexts. See Tomasello In short, there are many ways to constrain learners' hypotheses about how their language works. Since the poverty of the stimulus argument merely indicates the need for constraints, it does not speak to the question of what sorts of constraints those might be. In response to this kind of point, Chomskyans point out that the innateness of UG is an empirical hypothesis supported by a perfectly respectable inference to the best explanation.

    Of course there is a logical space between the conclusion that something constrains the acquisition mechanism and the Chomskyan view that these constraints are inborn representations of Binding Theory, Theta theory, the ECP, the principle of Greed or Shortest Path and so on. But the mere fact that the argument from the poverty of the stimulus doesn't prove that UG is innately known is hardly reason to complain.

    From Simple Input to Complex Grammar | The MIT Press

    This is science, after all, and demonstrative proofs are neither possible nor required. What the argument from the poverty of the stimulus provides is good reason to think that there are strong constraints on the learning mechanism. UG is at hand to supply a theory of those constraints. Moreover, that theory has been highly productive of research in numerous areas linguistics, psycholinguistics, developmental psychology, second language research, speech pathology etc.

    These successes far outstrip anything that non-nativist learning theorists have able to achieve even in their wildest dreams, and support a powerful inference to the best explanation in the Chomskyan's favor. In addition, there is a general debate within the philosophy of science as to the soundness of inferences to the best explanation: does an explanation's being the best available give any additional reason over and above its ability to account for the phenomena within its domain to suppose it true?

    In the linguistic case, what sometimes seems to underpin people's positions on such issues is differing intuitions as to who has the burden of proof in this debate. Empiricists or non-nativists contend that Chomskyans have not presented enough data or considered enough alternative hypotheses to establish their case. Chomskyans reply that they have done more than enough, and that the onus is on their critics either to produce data disconfirming their view or to produce a testable alternative to it. That such burden-shifting is endemic to discussions of linguistic nativism the exchange in Ritter is illustrative suggests to me that neither side in this debate has as yet fulfilled its obligations.

    Empiricists about language acquisition have ably identified a number of points of weakness in the Chomskyan case, but have only just begun to take on the demanding task of developing develop non-nativist learning theories, whether for language or anything much else. Nativists have rested content with hypotheses about language acquisition and innate knowledge that are based on plausible-seeming but largely unsubstantiated claims about what the pld contain, and about what children do and do not know and say.

    It is unclear how to settle such arguments. While some may disagree especially some Chomskyans , it seems that much work still needs to be done to understand how children learn language — and not just in the sense of working out the details of which parameters get set when, but in the sense of reconceiving both what linguistic competence consists in, and how it is acquired. In psychology, a new, non-nativist paradigm for thinking about language and learning has begun to emerge over the last 10 or so years, thanks to the work of researchers like Elizabeth Bates, Jeffrey Elman, Patricia Kuhl, Michael Tomasello and others.

    The reader is referred to Elman et al. For now, considerations of space demand a return to our topic, viz. We saw in the previous section that in order to support the view that all of UG is innately known, nativists about language need to hold not just that the data for language learning is impoverished in a few isolated instances, but that it's impoverished across the board. That is, in order to support the view that the innate contribution to language acquisition is something as rich and detailed as knowledge of Universal Grammar, nativists must hold that the inputs to language acquisition are defective in many and widespread cases.

    After all, if the inputs were degenerate only in a few isolated instances, such as those discussed above, the learning problem could be solved simply by positing innate knowledge of a few relevant linguistic hints, rather than all of UG. Pullum and Scholz helpfully survey a number of ways in which nativists have made this point, including:. In this section, I will set aside features i and ii as being characteristic of any empirical domain: the data are always finite, and they always underdetermine one's theory.

    No doubt it's an important problem for epistemologists and philosophers of science to explain how general theories can nonetheless be confirmed and believed. No doubt, too, it's an important problem for psychologists to explain the mechanisms by which individuals acquire general knowledge about the world on the basis of their experience. But underdetermination and the finiteness of the data are everyone's problem: if these features of the language learning situation per se supported nativism, then we should accept that all learning, in every domain, requires inborn domain-specific knowledge.

    But while it's not impossible that everything we know that goes beyond the data is a result of our having domain-specific innate knowledge, this view is so implausible as to warrant no further discussion here. I also set aside features iii and iv. For one thing, it is unclear exactly how degenerate the pld are; according to one early estimate, an impressive SRS Flashcards Greatly improve your ability to reproduce grammar that you have learned, through manual input.

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