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From:    Andreas Johansson <[log in to unmask]>
Quoting "Ph. D." <[log in to unmask]>:
> > Before I became interested in linguistics, I was
> > under the impression (based on mentions of
> > Chomsky in the general press) that his ideas
> > had revolutionized linguistics, and that the vast
> > majority of current linguists agreed with his
> > theories.
> >
> > But after reading some articles about linguistics
> > on the web and various comments in this forum,
> > I now have the impression that his ideas are very
> > controversial and that many, if not most, linguists
> > are rather skeptical of his ideas.
>
> That's pretty much my experience, too. In my first coupla
> years on the List, I was repeatedly surprised that no-one
> rose to his defense when, as fairly frequently, flak was
> heading chomksywards.

The problem is not so much what Chomsky has achieved in the
past, but rather what he is trying to do nowadays.  By far
a huge majority of linguists will agree that the kinds of
things Chomsky was doing in the late 1950s and 1960s were
groundbreaking work in all fields of linguistics.  Some aspects
of his work then, such as his work with Morris Halle on feature
theory in phonology, are so fundamental to the way professional
linguists work today that it is literally inconceivable for us
to understand how intelligent people like Jespersen did without
them.  But his work nowadays on Minimalism is so baroque and so
convoluted that it strikes many linguists are prima facie
implausible.

I usually like to put it this way: movement rules and featural
distinctions like strong v. weak are like epicycles in pre-Copernican
cosmology. For centuries, epicycles were a rational and empirically
tenable theory for the movement of the planets, and even late in
the life of that theoretical framework, great empiricists like Tycho
Brahe could not bring themselves to believe in a heliocentric theory
of planetary motion, for the simple reason that heliocentrism had
problems which lead to its direct falsification. (Copernicus et al.
had assumed circular orbits, rather than elliptical ones.)  Thus,
for a long time after the reintroduction of heliocentrism, there
were many intelligent people who could not bring themselves to buy
into this new and exciting way of looking at things.  In a similar
fashion, most of the alternatives to Minimalism are flawed in some
way or another (my favored alternative, Autolexical Grammar, took a
great blow when it was pointed out that it couldn't handle the
behavior of control verbs right, and this forced J. Sadock to rethink
things).   So, although it is true that there is much dissatisfaction
with the machinery that Minimalism invokes, there is not even a growing
concensus that other frameworks will lead us in the more surely
correct direction. Thus Minimalism hangs on by default, as the
conservative choice.

 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier            "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637