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Eliminative Connectionism: Its Implications for a Return to an Empiricist/Behaviorist Linguistics

Ullin T. Place
Behavior and Philosophy
Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring/Summer, 1992), pp. 21-35
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27759268
Page Count: 15
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Eliminative Connectionism: Its Implications for a Return to an Empiricist/Behaviorist Linguistics
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Abstract

For the past three decades linguistic theory has been based on the assumption that sentences are interpreted and constructed by the brain by means of computational processes analogous to those of a serial-digital computer. The recent interest in devices based on the neural network or parallel distributed processor (PDP) principle raises the possibility ("eliminative connectionism") that such devices may ultimately replace the S-D computer as the model for the interpretation and generation of language by the brain. An analysis of the differences between the two models suggests that the effect of such a development would be to steer linguistic theory towards a return to the empiricism and behaviorism which prevailed before it was driven by Chomsky towards nativism and mentalism. Linguists, however, will not be persuaded to return to such a theory unless and until it can deal with the phenomenon of novel sentence construction as effectively as its nativist/mentalist rival.

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