I remember learning Chomskian arguments for universal grammar and finding them baffling, other than the big idea that there's something hard-wired about acquiring language in humans versus any other species. Who knew that EO Wilson had the same interpretation at that time. Further, it is interesting that Wilson thinks this complexity helped Chomsky intimidate critics, something most people don't think happens among objective, truth-seeking scientists . This is Chomsky's summary of his argument on universal grammar is from Wilson's Social Conquest of Earth:
[Chomsky] To summarize, we have been led to the following conclusions, on the assumption that the trace of a zero-level category must be properly governed.
- VP is α-marked by I.
- Only lexical categories are L-markers, so that VP is not L-marked by I.
- α-government is restricted to sisterhood without the qualification (35).
- Only the terminus of an X0-chain can α-mark or Case-mark.
- Head-to-head movement forms an A-chain.
- SPEC-head agreement and chains involve the same indexing.
- Chain coindexing holds of the links of an extended chain.
- There is no accidental coindexing of I.
- I-V coindexing is a form of head-head agreement; if it is restricted to aspectual verbs, then base-generated structures of the form (174) count as adjuunction structures.
- Possibly, a verb does not properly govern its α-marketd complement.
[Wilson] Scholars struggled to understand what appeared to be a profound new insight into the workings of the brain (I was one of them, in the 1970s). Deep grammar or universal grammar, as it was variously called, was a favorite topic of befudddled salonistes and college seminars. For a long time, Chomsky succeeded because, if for no other reason, he seldom suffered the indignity of being understood.