1932

Abstract

The mid-twentieth century brought a radical change in how the linguistics community formulated its major goal, moving from a largely taxonomic science to Chomsky's revolution, which conceptualized language as a higher-order cognitive function. This article reviews the paths (not always direct) that brought Lila Gleitman into contact with that revolution, her contributions to it, and the evolution in her thinking about how language is learned by every child, regardless of extreme variation in the input received. To understand how that occurs, we need to discover what must be learned by the child and what is already there to guide that learning—what must be, in Plato's terms, “recollected.” The growing picture shows a learner equipped with information-processing mechanisms that extract evidence about word meanings using various evidential sources. Chief among these are the observational and linguistic-syntactic contexts in which words occur. The former is supported by a mechanism Gleitman and her collaborators call “propose but verify,” and the latter by a mechanism known as “syntactic boot-strapping.”

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2022-01-04
2024-06-23
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