Is there a language instinct?
Chomsky’s theory has played a pivotal role in the cognitive revolution and is often seen as one of the pillar of cognitive sciences. It is therefore quite exciting to see some cognitive scientists attacking such a venerable theory and proposing a radical alternative. That’s exactly what Nicholas Evans and Steven Levinson do in their recent article published and discussed in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. The debate presents a unique confrontation of widely different opinions ranging from Pinker and Jackendoff (“The reality of a universal language faculty”) to Michael Tomasello (“Universal Grammar is dead”), and offers a rare epistemological discussion about what counts as proof or a theory in cognitive sciences. Finally, by questioning the needs of substantial cognitive universals, the article is the occasion to launch a debate about the future of cognitive sciences and its relation to culture. Great stuff!