Noam Chomsky's current theory, published in 1995, is known as The Minimalist Program and has been presented as his crowning achievement. It argues, familiarly, that there exists a universal grammar that is hardwired, and that, like an efficient machine, this grammar will tend to use the least possible number of constraints (phonetically and syntactically) to produce an utterance. Minimalism has spawned in linguistics an entire research program, despite being fundamentally misguided, according to distinguished linguist and philosopher of language Pieter Seuren. Seuren's accessible and spirited attack argues that the Minimalist Program is deeply flawed. He proposes that it fails to satisfy the basic criteria for sound scientific work, such as respect for data, unambiguous formulations, and falsifiability. Seuren points to the original acrimonious split in the 1960s and 1970s between Chomsky's generative grammar and the alternative generative semantics proposed by his followers, and argues that the latter theory was sounder and unfairly suppressed. Seuren maintains that this suppression--and the cult surrounding Chomsky and Minimalism more generally--has done great damage to linguistics by impairing open discussion of empirical issues and excluding valid alternatives. Chomsky's Minimalism will generate controversy among linguists in its attack on the fundamental assumptions used by an entire generation of researchers.
- Publication Date:
- 29 / 07 / 2004