Friday, July 6, 2007

The Poverty of the Stimulus

“Although children hear many
utterances, the language they
hear is incomplete, noisy, and
unstructured.” Fromkin et al,
Introduction to Language

The data we are exposed to is
impoverished. Less than what
is necessary to account for the
richness and complexity of the
grammar we attain and wield.

Not yr old man’s grammar or
Dr. Bradshaw’s concatenation
of clause & phrase, indirect &
direct object distinctions, ratios
of independence & subordination
& the etiquette of conjunction,
proper punctuation, non-terminal
pre-positions; nor the humanist
capacity for tedious systematic
taxonomies of sound & sense
devastatingly demonstrated in
my so-called Introduction to
Language course.

But the Grammar of Talk
talking: asking questioning
quibbling quarreling claiming
clamoring claiming whining--
communicating state of the
art always going on & on: the
deep psyche-logical richness
& complexity of the

Grammar of

thoughtless, rule-driven, structured,
syn-tact & context- dependent
machinery early provoked by the
linguistic environmentalism I swim in,
indifferent to its token topics, subject-
object matter: fast food or global
warming, mitochondria or monkey
business: it can handle it.

Or call it a wee official grammarian
behind my eyebrows, designated
driver designed to manufacture
if not what I’m talking right now,
then how: my media messenger.

Maybe what, too: so often a surprise
—what I have to say, & don’t know
it till I hear it. See. Analyze
THAT. I am not taught
to talk.

A provocation. An awakening.
Equipment turns on, activated
by specimen samples. Can you
remember how it happened? Your
first words in the beginnings? Never
the less: we have theories. Flatlander
Interpretations & Explanations. Hard
Balls & Mallet determinations.

“The poverty of the stimulus.”

Despite the impoverishment I have
always with me, I “know” far more
about my linguistic environmentalism
than is exemplified by what I hear
around me. Will travel. Born with
The Grammar Gun so to speak.
Naturally. Nurture don’t
manufacture it.

Like many on this campus, I wake
early wondering how to get better
at sustain ability, stimulated by a
linguistic environment that piques a
deep ecologic generating a green
grammar of planetary accountability;
I put a brick in my toilet, brush my
teeth in the shower,

xxxooo, Presbyter

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