Chapter published in:History of Linguistics 2017: Selected papers from the 14th International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, (ICHoLS 14), Paris, 28 August – 1 September
Edited by Émilie Aussant and Jean-Michel Fortis
[Studies in the History of the Language Sciences 127] 2020
► pp. 157–170
On the reception and revivification of Cartesian linguistics
Fifty years after its publication, it is timely to return to Noam Chomsky’s Cartesian linguistics to explore what this controversial text accomplished, what it didn’t accomplish, and for whom. I begin with the context of midcentury American linguists’ historical consciousness into which Cartesian linguistics initially appeared, then review responses to the book by (first) philosophers and historians of linguistics, and (second) generative linguists versus linguists not associated with generativism, especially those in the United States. I evaluate whether the book achieved Chomsky’s own goals, then close by calling attention to an emerging second life of Cartesian linguistics, beginning around 2000.
Keywords: Cartesian linguistics , 20th century American linguistics, historiography of generative grammar, biolinguistics
Published online: 20 May 2020