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The Linguistic Review

Editor-in-Chief: Hulst, Harry

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Empirical assessment of stimulus poverty arguments

Geoffrey K Pullum1 / Barbara C Scholz2

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Citation Information: The Linguistic Review. Volume 18, Issue 1-2, Pages 9–50, ISSN (Online) 1613-3676, ISSN (Print) 0167-6318, DOI: 10.1515/tlir.19.1-2.9, February 2008

Publication History

Published Online:
2008-02-27

Abstract

This article examines a type of argument for linguistic nativism that takes the following form: (i) a fact about some natural language is exhibited that allegedly could not be learned from experience without access to a certain kind of (positive) data; (ii) it is claimed that data of the type in question are not found in normal linguistic experience; hence (iii) it is concluded that people cannot be learning the language from mere exposure to language use. We analyze the components of this sort of argument carefully, and examine four exemplars, none of which hold up. We conclude that linguists have some additional work to do if they wish to sustain their claims about having provided support for linguistic nativism, and we offer some reasons for thinking that the relevant kind of future work on this issue is likely to further undermine the linguistic nativist position.

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