Noam and Zellig

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In this paper, we explore when and how the work of Noam Chomsky diverged from that of his mentor, Zellig Harris, and identify the origins and character of their differences. Considering evidence that they never fully understood each other, the rhetorical vehicle for this exploration is speculation as to how much this divergence is due to differences of temperament, to “post-war” generational differences, or, with more importance for the field, to different conceptions of the proper conduct of science. A number of questions are addressed, such as: Is truth attained by winning arguments, or is the appropriate role of argument to do everything possible to prove oneself wrong? Is a theory of language a prerequisite to or an outcome of linguistic analysis? And what are the fundamental data of linguistics?


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