Chairman’s Remarks: Language Learning and Innate Knowledge

  • Theodore Mischel


Professor Hamlyn devotes much of his paper to epistemological confusions implicit in Chomsky’s appeal to innate knowledge. The central part of Dr Morton’s paper argues that Chomsky’s ‘competence-performance’ distinction should be replaced by a three-fold distinction between ‘idealisation’, ‘Model of Potential’ and ‘Model of Performance’. Both reject innate ideas, so one might suppose that they are simply addressing different questions and that there is no issue between them. But an important issue does arise when Morton criticises Hamlyn for sticking to natural language (p. 163f.). Like Chomsky, Morton seems impatient with such philosophical arguments and eager to get on with the job of explaining how the child learns deep structure in terms of models (p. 171ff.). What Morton wants is better models and, unlike Chomsky, he thinks that ‘the incompleteness of current empirical accounts of language learning’ (p. 172) does not warrant dismissing them since empirical psychologists will, hopefully, come up with more adequate models in due course.


Native Speaker Language Learning Bicycle Rider Competent Speaker Grammatical Rule 
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Copyright information

© Royal Institute of Philosophy 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theodore Mischel

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