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Quora Answer : Why would NoamChomsky think that the language acquisition device (LAD) would have evolved "perfect" right out of the gate?

Jul 20, 2015

Yeah. It seems a pretty odd assertion. Almost as though Chomsky subscribes to a kind of "irreducible complexity" about it. Like he's so holistic about what language is that he can't imagine what the proverbial "half a language" would be like.

I've not heard that Chomsky is a creationist. (Am I wrong about this?) So I suppose what he must presume is that the mechanism must have evolved for another purpose, under other pressures and then just turned out to be useful for grammatical processing. (This isn't entirely crazy. If language requires some kind of generic "predict what happens next in this sequence" type capacities, these might have evolved for other sorts of predictions - following the trajectories of prey, understanding other natural processes by following the sequence of sound they make - and then been pressed into service for tracking and reproducing sequences of vocalizations fairly quickly. The extreme case of this would be that language is a purely cultural invention; it piggybacks on the evolved ability to track sound sequences, but one day a couple of proto-hominids came up with the idea of predicting each other's vocal sequences, and the idea took off.)

It would be interesting to know what Chomsky thinks is at stake here. Perhaps he worries that an incremental sequence of more and more language-like capabilities undermines his assumption of a single common grammar. If there are a lot of different approximations to grammatical ability in evolutionary history, perhaps we're still a world of people with slightly different mechanisms that all approximate true grammatic capability rather than a single, common mechanism.

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