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Cognition. 1994 Apr-Jun;50(1-3):315-46.

Ever since language and learning: afterthoughts on the Piaget-Chomsky debate.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Cognitive, Istituto San Raffaele, Milano, Italy.


The central arguments and counter-arguments presented by several participants during the debate between Piaget and Chomsky at the Royaumont Abbey in October 1975 are here reconstructed in a particularly consice chronological and "logical" sequence. Once the essential points of this important exchange are thus clearly laid out, it is easy to witness that recent developments in generative grammar, as well as new data on language acquisition, especially in the acquisition of pronouns by the congenitally deaf child, corroborate the "language specificity" thesis defended by Chomsky. By the same token these data and these new theoretical refinements refute the Piagetian hypothesis that language is constructed upon abstractions from sensorimotor schemata. Moreover, in the light of modern evolutionary theory, Piaget's basic assumptions on the biological roots of cognition, language and learning turn out to be unfounded. In hindsight, all this accrues to the validity of Fodor's seemingly "paradoxical" argument against "learning" as a transition from "less" powerful to "more" powerful conceptual systems.

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