On Computational and Chomskyan Linguistic Theory

Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay

Indian Statistical Institute

July 11, 1997

Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, pp. 29-42, 1997

This is an imagined dialogic paper on the problems of perceiving creative speaking/hearing subjects’ corporeal as machine. The author alleged that the one of the basic tenets in Chomsky’s discourse, due to its Cartesian inheritance, was to consider human body as a machine, thus Chomskian syntactic enterprise had become a part of the anatomo-bio-political project a la Foucault. It was a case of minimization, approximation, optimization, appropriation of human body, when Chomsky and his fellowmen (like Lasnik, Berwick) deployed technocratic metaphors (e.g., the terms like “Computation", “array” “interface”, “parser" etc. on the other hand, operations like “COMMAND”, “SATISFY”, “SPELL OUT”. All these operations reflect the metonymic transformation of creative speaking subject as all these functions in uppercase letter made the author remember Schank’s [1975] language-free representations [PROPEL, MOVE, INGEST or CONTROL, PART etc.], which combine primitive conceptual roles and categories.) for explaining a part of cognitive domain, that is a “physical organ”: LAD. These were not metaphors or case of displacement only, but was a case of metonymic condensation of human body as these technical metaphors condense the scope of human (linguistic) potentiality. Does human body follow binary mechanical algorithm only at the moment of speaking? Do we not have extra-/non-algorithmic cognitive ability? (The author’s point is that Cognitive Domain is not algorithmic only.) The discourse that Chomskians are using is fully algocentric (a discourse that is motivated by meta-mathematical formalism or computational algorithmic simulation guided by the technical rationality, ignoring the non-algorithmic constitutive rules) in its nature. According to author’s perception, Chomsky wanted to build up a Turing Machine for solving each linguistic problem without solving the halting problem of the machine. Chomsky’s parametric approach was “computer-friendly” as language was now perceived as a network of interlocking principles and parsing as linear steps. A parser would supply, in the same manner of Searle’s Chinese Room Puzzle, “yes/no answers” to the question: “Is this sentence grammatical?”. One can switch over from one parameter to another to manage a specific language like a machine (it seemed to the author that this was a Leibnizian Turn in Chomskian Theory; he was switching over from Cartesian Cogito to Monad - Universal of all universals - Monad of all monads - Principle of parameters) In fact, the language is not only governed by either procedural or parametric principles, but there are constitutive non-formal principles.

This paper also discussed the problems of Computational Linguistics in connection with Indian plurilingual milieu.

COLOPHON: The author is thankful to Prof. N. Chomsky as he answered all these questions with patience and promised to drop the term “computation” from the technical vocabulary of syntax as he wrote, “On the use of computers as a metaphor, I actually rare do, and I’ve been pretty explicit in warning that the metaphor isn’t to be taken too seriously. Like any metaphor, if it helps clarify thought and stimulates imagination, fine; if it leads to error, as this one constantly has, then drop it.” (personal correspondence, 13/2/1995).

Number of Pages in PDF File: 14

Keywords: algocentric discourse, anatomo-bio-political project, technocratic metaphors as metonyms, Turing Machine, Leibnizian Turn

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Date posted: March 12, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Bandyopadhyay, Debaprasad, On Computational and Chomskyan Linguistic Theory (July 11, 1997). Indian Journal of Applied Linguistics, Vol. XXIII, No. 2, pp. 29-42, 1997. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2019795

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Debaprasad Bandyopadhyay (Contact Author)
Indian Statistical Institute ( email )
203 B.T. Road
Kolkata, West Bengal 700108
+919830630707 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://plus.google.com/105852625753454780106/about
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