A CHAPTER IN THE H I S TO RY O F R AT I O N A L I S T T H O U G H T
Professor of Linguistics Massachusetts Institute of Technology
edited with a new introduction by
Cybereditions Corporation Christchurch, New Zealand
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Copyright © 2002 Noam Chomsky Introduction for Cybereditions © 2002 James McGilvray The moral right of the authors is asserted. All rights reserved. This publication is copyrighted and protected by International and Pan American CopyrightConventions. Other than for personal use, no part of it may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing of Cybereditions Corp. The unauthorized reproduction, storage, transmission or commercial exploitation of any material in this publication may result in civil liability and criminal prosecution.
First published by Harper & Row in 1966
Introduction for Cybereditions (by James McGilvray) Preface Acknowledgments Introduction Creative Aspect of Language Use Deep and Surface Structure Description and Explanation in Linguistics Acquisition and Use of Language Summary Notes Bibliography Index of Persons Index of Subjects 7 45 47 49 51 72 88 94 104 105 143 151 155Introduction for Cybereditions
by James McGilvray About this book
While often ignored (and when not, denounced1) Noam Chomsky’s Cartesian Linguistics (CL) is one of the most original and profound studies of language and mind of the 20th century. Chomsky said of it in the original introduction that it is “a preliminary and fragmentary sketch of some of the leading ideas of Cartesian linguistics with noexplicit analysis of its relation to current work that seeks to clarify and develop these ideas.” This is understatement. It is preliminary only in that it was intended to invite other studies2 and in that nothing of its scope and reach had been tried before. Nothing has equaled it since, including Chomsky’s own later works. It is fragmentary only in the sense that it is a short work that deals withseveral centuries of the study of language and mind and is necessarily selective in the views and individuals it discusses. And while it is correct that there is little explicit analysis of relations to current (as of 1966) work, it is obvious to anyone reasonably familiar with work in linguistics and the study of mind then or since what Chomsky’s views are. Those views – organized in terms of adistinction between rationalist and empiricist approaches to the mind that Chomsky suggests but does not pursue in CL – are the focus of the new introduction that appears below. Chomsky would, I am sure, have liked to write a new introduction to CL – clearly one of his favorite works – and to play a more direct role in its production. Unfortunately, due to a backlog of commitments that will keephim busy for several years and to ever-increasing demands from people and groups around the world to speak to political issues in the ways he so eﬀectively does, he does not have the time to write a new introduction, not to mention performing other editing tasks. But he has looked over this new introduction and made helpful comments on it. This edition diﬀers from the ﬁrst in being entirely inEnglish. In the original 1966 text, Chomsky left many of the quotations in French or German, using translations only if they were available. To make this edition more accessible to the wider audience it deserves, Susan-Judith Hoﬀmann translated the German and Robert Stoothoﬀ almost all of the French,3 using recent published translations whenever they were available and appropriate. Throughout, an...