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Forty-Four Reasons
Why the Chomskians Are Mistaken


The congealing of knowledge into pretentious ignorance and the decline of investigative method into mere mummery have been so commonly recurrent throughout the history of ideas that perhaps no shocked or outraged response should be voiced at discovering yet another such occurrence among us. And yet this most recent brand of obscurantism has been so widely promulgated and so deeply accepted and even praised by so many members of the learned professions as to raise grave questions concerning the overall aptitude of human beings to distinguish truth from falsehood.

It is not at all difficult to demonstrate that the totality of those so-called linguistic principles, generally known either as "Transformational Generative Grammar" or "Chomskianism," along with virtually each and every one of their specific manifestations, reside almost totally outside the pale of reasonable human belief and place so unbearable a burden on credibility as to rank, depending on one's point of view, somewhere between the gravest of possible scandals and the realm of total risibility.

It is important to recognize this potential for dual interpretation from the outset, for while anger and indignation are perfectly appropriate reactions in this matter, outright ridicule might prove to be the more perfect pathway. If we are to heal this plague of learning, what we may most need might well be not the fury of biblical prophets but the perfectly attuned parody of a Voltaire directing his Doctor Pangloss against the absurdities of those following Leibnitz or a Mark Twain reducing the overblown novels of Fennimore Cooper to their truly minuscule stature.

Or perhaps either one of these would still be too much effort to expend on this alleged philosophy of language—it could just be that the critic most urgently needed here is the classic stage comedienne Anna Russell as she deftly picks apart all the major flaws in the plot of the Wagnerian ring cycle. This author lacks the wit and verve of such worthy predecessors, but he will do his best, where appropriate, to incorporate something of their spirit into what you are about to read.

The following partial list of errors, misunderstandings, and outright violations of common sense cannot possibly exhaust the sheer scale and scope of the unending solecisms generated by these theories, any more than it can diminish the abominable offense to style and sense demonstrated by the so-called language in which they were written. But again, merely to advance such assertions in total seriousness is to imbue those theories with a far greater importance than they actually possess.

The author will content himself with merely listing these errors—or at least most of them—in a dispassionate manner at this time and has no intention of entering into a prolonged dispute over any of the individual points. He is well aware that several other attempts to dislodge these theories have failed in the past because they remained too closely tied to the theories themselves, and he has no intention of falling into such a trap. He has also assigned himself over the future the task of evolving a far more inclusive overview of language than is currently accessible to language professionals and intends to direct his best energies towards that constructive goal rather than lingering unduly over this unfortunate task.

One other reason why he declines to discuss the articles in this list in any extended detail is that he believes these theories are in the long run of no intrinsic importance to the study of language or linguistics, and he hence declines to be bound in any way to a prolonged debate over their ostensible meaning. Those who truly crave further information on this matter are free to consult the author's many published papers and articles on this and related topics, which can be found on this website—or if you are reading this piece on a newsgroup or a bulletin board—at

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This piece is Copyright © 2000
by Alexander Gross, with specified
portions Copyright © 2000 by
Sergio Navega. It may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be used for any commercial (i.e.,
money-making) purpose without
written permission from the authors.
All Rights Reserved.

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