Letter: Very much alive

March 1, 2002

The claim that generativist linguistics is "dead in its stall" (Books, THES , February 15) is based on a misunderstanding. Generativists believe language has properties that should be construed psychologically, rather than sociologically, and that these are best understood by constructing formal theoretical models.

The application of scientific methods to studying human language has proved fruitful, leading to discoveries ranging from constraints on patterns of word stress to the peculiar variation across languages in the behaviour of question words such as "who" and "why".

Thousands of researchers work successfully using this framework to develop practical grammars of languages, to understand the nature of language acquisition and change, and to provide models for how we process language psychologically.

David Adger
Lecturer in linguistics
University of York

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