1887
image of Otto Jespersen, one more broken leg in the historical stool of generative linguistics
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Abstract

Summary

Over the years, Noam Chomsky has constructed a historiographic narrative according to which Generative Grammar is the outcome of a mix comprising the early awareness of creativity by Galileo, the Cartesians, and Humboldt, the formalization of recursive functions by computational theorists, and an incipient internalist ‘language’ concept notably foreshadowed by Otto Jespersen. This paper tries to show that the latter ingredient is to be removed from the historical recipe for Chomskyan linguistics. More specifically, the paper claims that the almost ritual repetition of the name of the Danish linguist belongs to a component of the generativist rhetoric that is ‘non-rational’. Such a component is part and parcel of most ground-breaking theories.

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2022-04-19
2022-05-21
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