Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Getting a handle on reality

I liked the sort of conclusion the author of the article 'Is linguistics a science?' arrives at - or atleast I think is what the person is ultimately stating.  In a way, seems inconclusive or stating nothing new or grand.
The years-long immersion in Pirahã culture and the struggle to understand it had a profound personal effect on Everett. His encounter with their concept of truth made him rethink his belief in God and eventually become an atheist. His renunciation of universal grammar involved a similar disillusionment, since he had worked within the framework for the first 25 years of his career. 
Yet Everett’s study of the Pirahã falsifies neither Christianity nor universal grammar, since they are not designed for falsification in the first place. They are both a way to try to get a handle on reality. The first asks that you take a set of assumptions on faith because they are the truth. The second provides a set of assumptions for generating a line of enquiry that might at some point lead to the truth. I’m not sure whether you can call yourself a Christian if you reject the foundational tenets of Christianity – but you can certainly reject the assumptions of universal grammar and still call yourself a linguist. 
In fact, a drive to debunk Chomsky’s assumptions has led to a flourishing of empirical work in the field. Even as a foil, villain or edifice to be crumbled, the theory of universal grammar offers a framework for discovery, a place to aim the magnifying glass, chisel or wrecking ball, as the case may be. Archetypes of all kinds can simplify and exaggerate, and universal grammar is no different. But whether as a structured mythology or a catalyst for conflict, it nonetheless helps us to reach a deeper understanding of the world.
[Article and picture as found on Aeon; emphasis added]

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