Language as a natural object – linguistics as a natural science

Cedric Boeckx and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini


The Chomskyan revolution in linguistics in the 1950s in essence turned linguistics into a branch of cognitive science (and ultimately biology) by both changing the linguistic landscape and forcing a radical change in cognitive science to accommodate linguistics as many of us conceive of it today. More recently Chomsky has advanced the boldest version of his naturalistic approach to language by proposing a Minimalist Program for linguistic theory. In this article, we wish to examine the foundations of the Minimalist Program and its antecedents and draw parallelisms with (meta-)methodological foundations in better-developed sciences such as physics. Once established, such parallelisms, we argue, help direct inquiry in linguistics and cognitive science/biology and unify both disciplines.

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The Linguistic Review publishes high-quality papers in syntax, semantics, phonology and morphology within a framework of Generative Grammar and related disciplines, as well as critical discussions of theoretical linguistics as a branch of cognitive psychology. The journal welcomes reviews of important new monographs in these areas, dissertation abstracts and letters to the editor.