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Grammar and Glamour of Cooperation

Lectures on the Philosophy of Mind, Language and Action


Szymon Wrobel

This book is a collection of essays, weaving together cognitive psychology, psycho-linguistics, developmental psychology, modern philosophy and behavioural sciences. It raises the question: how does grammar relate to our remarkable ability to cooperate for future needs? The author investigates the interconnections between the mechanisms governing cooperation and reciprocal altruism on the one hand and the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of syntactically structured elements on the other. Based on these premises, the specific character of cognitive explanations, possible architectures of mind, non-formal grammar and tacit knowledge are explored. Furthermore the author deals with the role of conceptual representations in explaining grammar, the modular structure of mind and the evolutionary origins of human language ability and moral authority.
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I. What are Rules of Grammar? The view from the Psychological and Linguistic Perspective


Returning to the main theme, by a generative grammar I mean simply a system of rules that in some explicit and well-defined way assigns structural descriptions to sentences. Obviously, every speaker of a language has mastered and internalized a generative grammar that expresses his knowledge of his language. This is not to say that he is aware of the rules of the grammar or even that he can become aware of them, or that his statements about his intuitive knowledge of the language are necessarily accurate.

Noam Chomsky35

Those of us who make it our business to study language often find ourselves in the curious position of trying to persuade the world at large that we are engaged in a technically demanding enterprise. Mathematicians are not expected to be able to relate their work to others: “Oh, I never could do math!” And although biologists and neuroscientists may be expected to explain the goals of their research in a very general way, the formidable chemical and physiological details that constitute the real substance of their work are freely granted to be beyond the understanding of nonspecialists. But language seems to be a different story.

Ray Jackendoff 36

The remarkable first chapter of Noam Chomsky’s Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) sets in place an agenda for generative linguistic theory, much of which has survived intact for over thirty-five years. The present chapter and the next ← 39 | 40 → two will be devoted...

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