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Forty-Four Reasons
Why the Chomskians Are Mistaken

Reasons 12—13

12. The almost total concentration by these "experts" on examples from written language, to the virtual exclusion of examples from spoken sources. If there is one principle agreed to by most linguists, it is that spoken language is the primary and prior form, written language the secondary and posterior one. To ignore the problems of spoken language and single out the problems of its written form is simply inadmissible.

13. As a close corollary to this, it also becomes unavoidably necessary to point out that even the examples of written language so fondly cited by these theorists bear little resemblance to other forms of written language as employed by most educated adults. Once again reductionism has crept in, and they have invented for themselves a small, delimited subset of frequently inept and/or ludicrous phrases, which they have attempted to present as the totality of language itself.

As one critic of the TGG canon has pointed out: "In effect, Chomsky's ideal speaker-listener is not in a speech community at all. He is a lone individual, completely surrounded by speech-mirrors". (Faust, as cited by Hall, p. 81). And as I.A. Richards observed as long ago as 1968, the sentences cited by Chomskians "as specimens in their expositions are usually such as are little likely to be misinterpreted. And where they do touch upon ambiguity, there is commonly an eccentricity and artificiality in the examples which may be symptomatic. The real hazards of language are conspicuously not represented."

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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
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All Rights Reserved.

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