Chomsky's paradigm: What it includes and what it excludes

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In the structuralist tradition, the semiotic nature of the linguistic sign was seen as grounded in the psychological association between sound and meaning. On the one hand, this association is arbitrary, since sound and meaning are dissimilar in nature; on the other hand, the language system as a whole is partially motivated through various associations by similarity, which group paradigmatic relations and are a factor in semantic change. The system relies on the social fact of language use as the guarantor of the stability of conventionalized form-meaning associations, but also as the agent of change, which is a slow disruption and restructuring of the stability of the system. The article discusses evidence for the semiotic nature of language from the domain of poetic iconicity, which heightens and highlights the possibility of non-arbitrary association between meaning and form. The importance of the dimension of language use is also discussed with reference to Mufwene's (2001, 2005, 2007) 'uniformitarian' theory of language contact, according to which idiolectal contact is the linguistic locus of social interaction and language change. It is argued that, in discounting language use, i.e., 'linguistic performance' and 'E-language', the Chomskyan theoretical framework is incomplete as an account of the nature of language.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChomskyan (R)evolutions
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9789027288486
ISBN (Print)9789027211699
Publication statusPublished - 18 Feb 2010


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