1. Introduction: Nativism in Linguistic Theory

  1. Alexander Clark and
  2. Shalom Lappin

Published Online: 21 MAR 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9781444390568.ch1

Linguistic Nativism and the Poverty of the Stimulus

Linguistic Nativism and the Poverty of the Stimulus

How to Cite

Clark, A. and Lappin, S. (2011) Introduction: Nativism in Linguistic Theory, in Linguistic Nativism and the Poverty of the Stimulus, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444390568.ch1

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2011
  2. Published Print: 7 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405187848

Online ISBN: 9781444390568



  • nativism in linguistic theory;
  • human beings, innate, genetically specified cognitive endowment - acquiring natural language, a matter of scientific controversy;
  • debate, between opposing perspectives - not concerning existence of innately specified cognitive capacities;
  • concept of innateness, acutely problematic - lacking an agreed biological or psychological characterization;
  • environment of the child, important influence - on linguistic abilities, he/she acquires;
  • nativism and cognitive modularity;
  • neural networks, simple statistical learning mechanisms - resembling neural architecture of the brain;
  • humans, exhibiting domain-general learning capabilities - learning skills like chess;
  • Chomsky, prominent advocate of linguistic nativism - over the past 50 years;
  • Minimalist Program (MP) - Chomsky, revising the P&P framework


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Historical Development

  • The Rationalist–Empiricist Debate

  • Nativism and Cognitive Modularity

  • Connectionism, Nonmodularity, and Antinativism

  • Adaptation and the Evolution of Natural Language

  • Summary and Conclusions