26th October 2021
Is Chomsky ENTIRELY AND COMPLETELY wrong? A new perspective – by Paul Andersen.
I’ve been a vigorous critic of many baseless claims made by Chomsky outside his area of specialisation (linguistics). In 2015 I wrote this: Noam Chomsky’s theories are pseudo-science. Linguistics, however, is a deductive discipline worth pursuing.
It now appears most linguistics might be entirely wrong.
This is what an academic from Sweden, Paul Anderson (with considerable knowledge of Indian languages, it would appear) has written to me:
You apparently are referring to Chomsky’s theory of “universal grammar”. There is, however, yet another extremely important theory invented by Chomsky that I myself have been investigating for quite some time now and have come to the conclusion that it and ALL modern linguistic theories of grammatical analysis based upon Chomsky’s invention represent prime examples of pseudo-science. This has to do with the notion of Diathesis or Grammatical voice.
In the odd chance you may be interested in what I have to say about this, that modern linguistic theories of linguistic analysis are instances of pseudo-science, I am sending you along with this email — as attachments — the blurb of my book “Grammatical Voice. A tale of two linguistics. To science or not to science” and a portion of my latest book in which I compare Greek and Latin grammarians vs modern linguistics with respect to grammatical voice and the scientific method. I would greatly appreciate any comments you may have for me.
I’m keenly interested in linguistics since it is the font of major political debates in India (Aryan invasion/etc.). But unfortunately I simply have no time at the moment to either read the book or respond.
Anderson’s 2020 book’s blurb:
Western Linguistics has come a long way since its beginnings with the grammar of Classical Greek attributed to Dionysios Thrax. Unfortunately, during this journey a cross-roads was reached and a decision had to be made. Instead of taking the path of scientific principles which a few linguists did, most linguists instead took the path of scientific ignorance and least resistance, ending up in the dark and murky forest of pseudoscience. To their credit, though, they adapted extremely well to this scientific darkness.
This book tells the tale of these two linguistics and their journeys. It is a tale of two distinct paths taken by these two linguistics and their encounters with other actors along the way. Here we meet, among others, falsification, confirmation bias as well as selection bias and see firsthand just how dangerous it can be to trust the wrong source of data.
We find that when the going gets tough no progress is ever made along the journey without the help of ‘exceptions’. Along the way we also stumble upon parsimony, Occam’s razor as well as the fallacy of special pleading and the difference between explaining more data with less assumptions versus less data requiring more assumptions.
Motivated reasoning teaches us that there are two different directions research can take: (i) going forward and following logic and evidence wherever it may lead or (ii) starting already with the conclusion and then working backwards from there, backfilling in justifications and making evidence fit into preconceived notions.
We learn about performing experiments and that the purpose of doing this is to determine cause and effect relations between variables in a system. We also see just how easy it is to confuse correlation with causation and what the consequence of this is: if we establish a cause and effect relationship between two or more variables, then outcomes are predictable; this is most definitely not the case with correlation relationship between variables.
Our encounter with coherence teaches us how to determine, even without data, whether one can possibly be correct, or most likely wrong.
Most important of all, though, is the very cornerstone of science, i.e. the scientific method itself, accepted and relied on without question and without hesitation by one linguistics, rejected and thrown overboard by the other.