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Chinese Semiotic Studies

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Minimal Computation and the Architecture of Language

Noam Chomsky
  • Corresponding author
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Published Online: 2016-03-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/css-2016-0003


The article argues that humans are endowed with an inborn language faculty. The ‘Basic Property’ of language is defined as a finitely-specified procedure represented in the brain, which generates a discrete infinity of hierarchically structured expressions. These unordered structures are linked to two interfaces: (i) the sensorimotor interface and (ii) the conceptual-intentional interface. The sensorimotor interface externalizes and linearizes internal structures, usually in the sound modality. Externalization and linearization account for the structural diversity of the world’s languages. Human language did not evolve from simpler communication systems. The available evidence suggests that language is primarily an instrument of thought, not of communication.

Keywords: ‘Basic Property’; inborn language faculty; origin of language; function of language


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About the article

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) is Institute Professor & Professor of Linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research areas include linguistic theory, syntax, semantics, and philosophy of language.

Published Online: 2016-03-11

Published in Print: 2016-02-01

Citation Information: Chinese Semiotic Studies, ISSN (Online) 2198-9613, ISSN (Print) 2198-9605, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/css-2016-0003. Export Citation

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