Connectionism and Three Levels of Nativism

William Ramsey, Stephen Stich

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores the relation between connectionism and Chomsky's arguments for the existence of innate knowledge. Along the way, it proposes to defend a pair of interrelated conclusions. The first is that there are actually three versions of Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument, which make increasingly strong claims about the nature of the cognitive endowments required for learning language. The second conclusion is that the relation between connectionism and nativism is considerably more complex than many have assumed. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 2 sets out the three versions of Chomsky's poverty of the stimulus argument. Section 3 offers an introductory overview of recent connectionist research and a survey of ongoing efforts to get connectionist devices to learn aspects of natural language. Section 4 explores the ways in which the success of these efforts would bear upon the three versions of Chomsky's argument.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCollected Papers
Subtitle of host publicationMind and Language, 1972-2010
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190267513
ISBN (Print)9780199734108
StatePublished - Sep 22 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Connectionism
  • Innate knowledge
  • Language learning
  • Nativism
  • Noam chomsky
  • Poverty of the stimulus


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