Chapter 1. A tale of two paradigms

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The modern study of language, particularly as practiced in the Anglophone community, can be viewed as the tale of two competing paradigms: Universal Grammar (UG) and emergentism. These two paradigms take fundamentally different positions on these eight core issues: competence-performance, the centrality of recursion, the sudden evolution of language, the genetic control of language, the idea that speech is special, critical periods for language learning, neurological modules supporting language, and the poverty of the stimulus to the language learning. For researchers in the UG tradition, the vision of a recent evolution of language triggered by mutation in a few select genes predicts the formation of language modules, structures supporting recursion, and critical periods. Emergentists view language evolution as a gradual process based on dozens of mutations that impact general purpose cognitive and physiological mechanisms in many flexible ways. For emergentists, recursion and competence are not hard-wired facilities, but emergent abilities. Because of its greater complexity, the articulation of the emergentist position has depended heavily on advances in computer technology and the growth of multimedia databases, imaging technology, neural network modeling, and methods for dynamic assessment.


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