LINGUIST List 3.433

Fri 22 May 1992

Disc: Chomsky Citations

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Swann Philip, 3.417 Citations
  2. Martti Arnold Nyman, Chomsky citations and Mandeville's Paradox
  3. David W. Talmage, Re: 3.413 Citations

Message 1: 3.417 Citations

Date: Wed, 20 May 1992 17:28:53 3.417 Citations
From: Swann Philip <>
Subject: 3.417 Citations

I can't resist putting in my tuppence worth on Chomsky's citation
record. Here are my very informal observations of how he is treated by
non (theoretical) linguists.

(1) Mathematical theory of formal languages. Chomsky still gets cited
almost automatically for his pioneering work on hierarchies of languages.

(2) Philosophy of Language. C gets cited a lot for his nativist
claims: his arguments are usually rejected. Fodor's much more radical
nativism gets even more attention and even more rejection. C also gets
cited a lot in discussions of Wittgenstein, usually as an example of
the sort of narrow formalist, rule-based view a language that
Wittgenstein consistently argued against.

(3) Psychology. C has frequently claimed that what he is doing is
scientific psychology, but this has failed to impress psychologists.
The competence/performance distinction, the autonomous language
faculty assumption and the concern with UG all put C's theoretical
constructs beyond the ken of most experimental or empirical psychologists.

(4) Biology. It would interesting to know if *any* evolutionary
biologists have taken up C's views or tried to explain how they
could be investigated. Again, his views often get mentioned in
general introductions ... but only to be rejected.

(5) Cognitive Science. As Gardner showed in "The Mind's New Science",
C was a source of inspiration. Consequently he is cited very
frequently in cognitive science literature. Again, however, it is his
formal, comptuational approach - not his genuinely linguistic work -
that are referred to. So, although C is viewed as a founder of
cognitive science, his current theory of grammar has had no real
impact on the field.

In general, It seems that most people outside of linguistics know
of Chomsky as he appears in "Aspects" and in the non-technical parts
of "Knowledge of Language". It's surely a safe bet that almost no
non-linguist followed him into "Government and Binding".

- philip swann
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Message 2: Chomsky citations and Mandeville's Paradox

Date: Thu, 21 May 1992 02:42 EETChomsky citations and Mandeville's Paradox
From: Martti Arnold Nyman <MANYMANFINUHA.bitnet>
Subject: Chomsky citations and Mandeville's Paradox

In his 'Fable of the Bees: or, private vices, public benefits' (1732),
Bernard de Mandeville argued that the wealth of a nation results from
private vices of the citizens. This is Mandeville's Paradox:
intentional actions of individuals may bring about social
phenomena intended by no one.
 Part of the persistent Chomsky-boom exemplifies Mandeville's
Paradox: a great deal of people citing Chomsky do so in order to
show that he's wrong -- and, with the implication that he doesn't
deserve being cited so frequently!
 (I owe Mandeville's Paradox to Rudi Keller (1990) Sprachwandel.
 Francke Verlag: Tuebingen.)

Martti Nyman
Department of General Linguistics, University of Helsinki, Finland
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Message 3: Re: 3.413 Citations

Date: Wed, 20 May 92 07:48:05 ESRe: 3.413 Citations
From: David W. Talmage <>
Subject: Re: 3.413 Citations

Hm! Linguists agree with Oscar Wilde:	the only thing worse than being
talked about is not being talked about. ;-)
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