Cognitive Approaches


  • Universals and Variation in Language- Chomsky vs Everett

(Kristina Strenge, Irina Gutova & Kathrin Mannert , Universität Osnabrück, SS 2008)

In this ELLO Podcast we created a radio discussion between the linguists Noam Chomsky and Daniel Everett. The interviewer Alicia Dunhill from the Philosophers Talk on Radio ABC raises the question: Are there certain universals that are common for all human languages? In this debate Chomsky, who supports the theory of Universals in Language, is challenged by Everett, who has studied the tribe Piraha in the Amazonian jungle… Find out about the work of Everett and his claims. Which fundamental principle of the Universal Grammar is not found in the Piraha language…? Enjoy!


  • The mental lexicon: How are words stored in the mental lexicon? (semantic primitives-theory vs. semantic networks-theory)

(Amadeus Magrabi, Carina Krause, Anna-Lisa Gert , Universität Osnabrück, SS 2008)

Words are not just arbitrarily stored somewhere in the brain, but somehow organised as a certain effective system. Otherwise we could not account for the various strong relationships we find between them: 'warm' for example can be best understood by considering the meanings of 'hot' and 'cold'. Innumerable theories try to explain this systematic organisation of the mental lexicon, but they all fall into two broad categories: the 'semantic primitives'-category and the 'semantic networks'-category. Theories belonging to the former state that words are built up of a common pool of 'meaning atoms' and that related words have some of those atoms in common. The common pool of atoms enables us to identify relationships between certain words. Supporters of the second category claim that words 'as a whole' have specific characteristics. The speaker has built links between different words, comparable with a cobweb. These links are the reason for the relationships between certain words. Both theories are compatible with the prototype theory, but which one is more plausible? In our podcast we are going to explain both approaches. On this basis we will then discuss the experimental findings to finally answer the question of plausibility.