Talk:Poverty of the stimulus

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I removed the statement, `... Chomsky himself has never advocated an argument based on Gold's proof.'. This seems to conflict with "Hauser, M. D., Chomsky, N., and Fitch, W. T. (2002) The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve? Science, 298:1569--1579." where they claim `... A version of the problem has been formalized by Gold ... No known “general learning mechanism” can acquire a natural language solely on the basis of positive or negative evidence, and the prospects for finding any such domain-independent device seem rather dim.' -- Cagri (talk) 13:07, 9 September 2008 (UTC)

I cleaned up this article a bit. I think the language flows a bit better now. Tyrell turing 19:34, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

JA: Yes, it does. Jon Awbrey 20:01, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Poverty of the Stimulus and negative evidence[edit]

I think we should try to keep a clear distinction between the POS argument and negative evidence. The stimulus is "poor" in a number of different respects (e.g. utterances may be misheard, may be spoken by non-native speakers, may be ungrammatical) and the lack of negative evidence is only one of these. Currently, the article implies that there is a single POS argument which crucially relies on the lack of negative evidence as a premise, but this is a bit misleading -- especially since the POS argument has only been set on in such an explicit deductive form by it's critics (e.g. Pullum & Scholz). If there are no objections I will be making some changes to the article to reflect these facts. Cadr 18:50, 23 June 2006 (UTC)

I think you should bring up those issues up in a subsection, something like, "Aleternative forms of the argument", rather than altering the main portion of the article. The reason is that although you're right that the poverty of stimulus argument has inspired discussion of other arguments about "impoverished" aspects of linguistic stimulus, the technical term "The Poverty of Stimulus Argument" does refer to a single argument, i.e. to the original argument surrounding learning from positive evidence. That's why people like Pullum & Scholtz concentrate on it. So, I think that it is important to leave the original argument as the main portion of the article. Nonetheless, I think that a subsection would be good, because there are indeed many variations that have spawned off from the original argument.Tyrell turing 18:56, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I basically agree with you, and a subsection sounds like a perfectly good compromise, but I'm not sure if it's so clear that there is an "original argument". I don't know when the term was first coined (if you do it would be very helpful if you could give a reference). Pullum & Scholz show that the term is understood very broadly; their narrow definition of a POS argument is simply given to make life easier for them (so they have 1 form of argument to challenge rather than 20). Cadr 23:14, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
You know, I had thought that Chomsky originally focused on the negative evidence issue in his work because of what one old teacher taught me. But, after you brought it up I went and looked at some other articles on the issue and it appears that you are right, and there isn't really a single "original" argument. (Note to self: check references before editing...) However, for whatever weird historical reason the negative evidence issue appears to have garnered a lot of attention, not just from Pullum & Scholtz, but in my experience many critics in computational linguistics and developmental psychology bring it up (e.g. Reich 1970, Bohannon & Stanowicz, 1988, Developmental Psychology (24) 684-689, and Onnis et al, (2002) here: [1]). So, I now recognize that your first inclination was correct, and I was wrong about any "original" argument. But I would recommend a fairly solid section on the negative evidence issue because it has garnered a lot of discussion. Tyrell turing 23:07, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
I agree with you that there has been a lot of focus on the negative evidence issue in the literature, and that this should be reflected in the article. The history of negative evidence seems to be quite interesting (and I wish I had a better first-hand knowledge of the relevant literature). According to Steven Pinker [2] the negative evidence issue was first raised in detail by an empiricist. Anyway, I'll make some (relatively minor) edits in the next few days to try to explain that there are various kinds of POS argument, while keeping negative evidence the focus of the article. (Of course, feel free to get in there first and make the changes yourself.) Cadr 23:46, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Added a response to Pullum and Scholz[edit]

I added Legate and Yang 2002 as an example of the responses to the article by Pullum and Scholz. I believe their response is representative and particularly interesting because it challenges Pullum and Scholz's central claim (this claim being the one that in all the cases they discuss, the data needed by the language learner is present in the input in a sufficient amount) by pointing out that the relevant data are, in fact, rare. (Actually, there is a huge discussion in the literature and these two papers stand for the two sides but are by no means the only ones, though they are representative of both sides of this particular debate. I think that the article might become too long by including more than the two though.) (talk) 05:47, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

Gold's Theorem overapplied?[edit]

I've tagged "a proof by E. Mark Gold showed that any formal language which has hierarchical structure capable of infinite recursion is unlearnable from positive evidence alone" as not very well supported. From reading the K Johnson reference, it looks like Gold's work has been misinterpreted by some scholars of natural language acquisition; Johnson mentions Chomsky as disputing even the assumptions required for Gold's Theorem to apply to human language acquisition. Change "showed that" to "is often cited to support the claim that"? Then footnote this to show where GT has been cited? Johnson's paper has useful references for the latter. Yakushima (talk) 05:24, 30 May 2008 (UTC)

This statement "a proof by E. Mark Gold showed that any formal language which has hierarchical structure capable of infinite recursion is unlearnable from positive evidence alone" is completely false. Learnability in the Gold sense is a property of classes of languages rather than languages. And hieracrhical structure has nothing to do with it -- presumable this means CF languages. For sure, the class of context free languages is not Identifiable in the limit, but there are classes of context free languages that are identifiable in the limit. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:56, 6 December 2008 (UTC)

Infinite recursion: real or not?[edit]

The article now states:

"As for the argument based on Gold's proof, it's not clear that human languages are truly capable of infinite recursion. Clearly, no speaker can ever in fact produce a sentence with an infinite recursive structure, and in certain cases (for example, center embedding), people are unable to comprehend sentences with only a few levels of recursion."

This is missing the point (and referring to Chomsky's response on working memory only deals with the comprehension part of the issue). The fact that a speaker cannot produce an infinitely recursing sentence does not show the invalidity of the assumption about infinite recursion. In English it is always possible to add one more embedding:

(i) John said that he loves Mary (ii) Bill said that John said that he loves Mary (iii) etc.

The number of embeddings that a speaker of English can produce depends on the time (s)he is able to devote to this task without eating, sleeping, etc. The relevant point, however, is that there is no speaker of English who will say at some point (the n-th embedding) that adding another embedding suddenly makes the sentence ungrammatical. Recognizing this is crucial for evaluating the assumption that human language is infinitely recursive. Not accepting it means claiming that such long sentences are ungrammatical. Onc70 (talk) 13:15, 28 August 2008 (UTC)Onc70

What is the evidence for the statement "there is no speaker of English who will say at some point..."? And, when you say "only deals with the comprehension part of the issue", what other parts of the issue are you implying exist? Unless you believe that the brain has the potential to process infinitely complex structures, then it seems to me that you have to concede that there is an upper bound on embedding. Gavril09 (talk) 04:37, 10 November 2009 (UTC)

God awful[edit]

Completely discounts the substantial linguistics studies undertaken by socionists. Representative of substantial ignorance in light of those studies. See the journals of the Socionics Institute, Kiev for more. Tcaudilllg (talk) 17:06, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Regardless of whether socionics is at all valid or not, it doesn't seem to have much at all to do with the topic. (For reference, socionics is a borderline-quackery method of personality typing, and hasn't got anything relevant to say about language acquisition.) Saltwater Rat (talk) 04:29, 23 February 2009 (UTC)


From reading this article, one would get the impression that the poverty of the stimulus argument is highly controversial. Indeed it even says so right in the introduction! Maybe 30 years ago, but nowadays UG is undeniably dominant. This article should obviously have a criticism section, since a few critics still remain, but not one longer than the evidence section! LSD (talk) 01:09, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

  • The argument is highliy controversial; nowadays surely more so than 10 or 20 years ago. Moreover, there are large geographical differences; UG has a very low level of support in Europe, as opposed to the US. Piramidon (talk) 14:34, 30 August 2009 (UTC)
  • Indeed, the whole POTS argument is based on the assumption that indications that is neither absolute positive evidence nor absolute negative evidence is useless for learning, ignoring the neurological fact that real brains, unlike conventional computers, can handle degrees of maybe and grade correlations in different strengths of correlation. That some sentences heard by the child is linguistically wrong in some way does not change the fact that each single error is rare, so they statistically cancel out in a way that any non-binary-code brain can notice. When the POTS argument was created, it was still believed that real brains used binary code and that binary computers could become truly intelligent. Now that modern research on organic brains and experiments with non-binary computers have shown the importance of non-binary statistical correlation grading for any learning appliceable to practical, non-laboratoric situations, the POTS argument, while still a good illustration of the monumental stupidity of binary computers, is not appliceable to non-binary brains. Any notion of POTS being appliceable to organic brains is based on the old theory of real brains being binary, and should by any scientific right have demised with it. Thus, there is a good reason for the criticism section to be longer than the "evidence" section. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:15, 22 May 2011 (UTC)
  • The claim that "UG is undeniably dominant" is false and part of the manufacturing of consent that pro-Chomsky linguists are constantly engaged in. The non-dominance of UG is explained by Newmeyer (2003, p. 683) who states that "my impression is that more linguists around the world do cognitive linguistics than do generative grammar." Newmeyer, who is very knowledgeable about the history of linguistics, includes the following types of researchers who do not use and support UG: functional linguists, some syntacticians working in the generative tradition (he lists Bresnan and Wasow), the great majority of psycholinguists, and the majority in the field of natural language processing. To Newmeyer's list, we can probably add most phoneticians, most sociolinguists, most anthropologists, and most language educators and applied linguists. Reference: Newmeyer, F. (2003). Grammar is grammar and usage is usage. Language, 79, 682-707. The following are other examples of the manufacturing of consent by pro-Chomsky linguists: at MIT and many other "generative" linguistics departments, syntax classes usually only discuss Chomskyan theory and do not cover any of the other 31 theories in the Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis; the theoretical literature review in doctoral theses about UG normally does not discuss any alternative theories; and many linguistics textbooks are covertly pro-UG and do not mention any other theories.Occa123 (talk) 03:16, 18 September 2009 (UTC)
  • idkbro. This reads like an extremely ideological POTS-sucks high school paper more than anything else IMO. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:19, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm a neuroscientist and have no particular bias either way. However, I find the article to be clear, and balanced. One has only to read this Discussion to see that the issue is rather controversial, and in the circumstances the article is first-rate. The debate stems largely from our continuing ignorance about the contributions of development and learning to neural circuitry (which presumably ultimately generates language!), and is just a more elaborate, higher-stakes, and much less solvable, version of debates about the origin of receptive field circuitry e.g. in low level vision. Perhaps the article could point this out.Paulhummerman (talk) 16:36, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

  • The poverty of the stimulus argument is controversial, it is rejected as a fallacy by most non-generative linguists. And contrary to the statement above UG is not "dominant" except perhaps on certain American Universities. Occa123 is right.·ʍaunus·snunɐw· 19:33, 3 September 2012 (UTC)
  • I agree that the article felt rather unbiased towards POTS. There were some points that I think weren't fully clarified, but nothing egregious. At times I felt the other was merely putting an afterthought in the article. AllHailDolapo (talk) 21:19, 22 September 2017 (UTC)

Bad examples and incorrectly described[edit]

The article discusses the learning of how to invert word order using bad examples, one of which is incorrectly described. The first example is the sentence "You are happy," in which the word "are" is incorrectly called an auxiliary verb. It is not the auxiliary verb, it is the main verb, linking to a predicate adjective. In a discussion about inverting of auxiliary verbs, the example should be a sentence with an auxiliary verb, for example, "You are bleeding."

The second example is the sentence "Anyone who is interested can see me later." This is a bad example because it is not a statement about the world, it is an expression of willingness on the part of the speaker to help the listeners or readers. One might turn an offer of assistance into a question (I am willing to help you -> Am I willing to help you?) — but it's not the best example. "Can anyone who is interested see me later?" isn't really a question; it's structured that way only for politeness. It really means something like, "My allotted minute is up, so if you are interested in hearing more about this, please see me later." The only responses expected are silence or "Yes"; is not intended to generate a "No" response, as in "No, Professor, I'm interested, but I can't see you later." A better example would be a sentence that inverts to a real question to which one could really answer Yes or No.

A further problem is that a normal question (as opposed to a sentence structured as a question for the purpose of politeness) can be answered literally without conducting a poll. For example, the question "Is the girl wearing the pink dress late for supper?" is answerable by checking to see if supper has started and if the girl is at the table. But the question "Can anyone who is interested see me later?", taken as a literal yes-or-no question, cannot be answered until the entire population of potentially interested people is polled to find out which ones are interested, and whether any of those interested are able to see the questioner later. The absurdity of conducting such a poll to answer the question illustrates that the question is not intended to be take as a literal yes-or-no question. So, it's a bad example; a good example would invert a statement into a question that is intended to be taken literally.

I leave it for more knowledgeable people to improve the examples, ideally based on examples in the literature (to avoid original research), but, unless someone either changes the examples or replies here and explains why these two examples really are good ones after all, eventually I will change the examples in the article. Anomalocaris (talk) 09:40, 13 December 2009 (UTC)

Poverty of the genome.[edit]

When chomsky claimed that "we cannot seriously propose that a child learns the values of 10 to the 9 parameters in a childhood lasting only 10 to the 8 seconds", he ignored the fact that the amount of genetic information humans have evolved since the human/chimpanzee split is less than 6 times 10 to the 7 base pairs, placing nativism even further from being able to explain language acquisition than classical behaviorism was (classical behaviorism is as dead as nativism ought to be, modern behaviorism is based on emergents). This highlights the necessity of something like spontaneous emergence of abstraction from statistical sampling of empirical data. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:30, 30 July 2011 (UTC)

The theory makes absurd predictions.[edit]

The nativism called "universal grammar" actually predicts that adaptation to different languages should, by natural selection, have produced groups of humans genetically incapable of learning foreign languages. That racist prediction have been conclusively disproved in lots of studies. Avoiding falsifiability by avoiding extrapolation of theories to their logical extremes is not scientific at all. Furthermore, there is no way to explain why a vast range of redundant linguistic capacities obviously not needed to build a complex language (no language uses the whole worldwide range and some languages only use a very small fraction of it) should have evolved in the first place. This is explained in more detail on the pages "Brain" and "Origin of language" (and to some extent "Piraha"), all on Pure science Wiki, a wiki devoted to the pure scientific method unaffected by academic obsession with status and prestige. (talk) 13:38, 8 January 2013 (UTC)Martin J Sallberg

Biased article[edit]

This article is just fraught with subtle allusions to try and convey the writers' contempt for Chomsky's theory. It shouldn't be too hard for anyone with an open mind to find them and pick them out, but here's one that's particularly egregious:

"That many linguists accept all three of the premises is testimony to Chomsky's influence in the discipline"

This is just pointless and childish—asserting that the main reason for this theory is accepted by many linguists is because of an irrational dogma. That's just not the case. There are also errors in the article pertaining to some of the basic arguments, for example, the notion that recursion has to be infinite, or that language can't be recursive because of limitations of human mental faculties. Those are statements that stem from an incomplete understanding of what recursion is.

I would in fact argue that the opposite of what I quoted is true: because the popular thing to do in linguistics is to try and disprove UG, particularly anything Chomsky has ever written, there are many of those who write articles like this one, fraught with basic errors and irrelevancies. (talk) 20:28, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Oh, I agree that that sentence should be removed, and I have removed it, and the uninformative adjacent paragraph. I think it should go because I think very few linguists accept the premises of the poverty of stimulus argument anymore.
It's not a good argument and the number of different approaches to falsifying it attests to how it may be the least supported notion still extant in linguistics. Gold's theorem is a demonstrably unsound argument on purely formal grounds - as Horning showed as early as 1969 - and as far as I can tell, even the surviving advocates of the poverty of stimulus no longer make it. The absence of negative evidence is demonstrably false - not only does poorly formulated language elicit visible negative reinforcement under ordinary circumstance, something every student of a second language knows well, but also empirical study of the language children actually encounter shows a high level of explicit correction of negative use.
Really, this article should be a lot less neutral, more in line with the way we treat caloric theory, luminiferous aether, and the monoamine hypothesis. (talk) 09:06, 10 December 2013 (UTC)

the POS rests on shaky math ?[edit]

the POS is often presented as a mathematically proven idea, but doesn't the detailed math make assumptions that are unrealistic ? (sorta like economics sometimes ?)

also, having young children, maybe I'm more verbal then most parents, but the idea that children don't get a lot of neg criticism - is there any empirical data there ? — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:6:3880:CC8:DCF5:EA4D:171A:DD3F (talk) 00:43, 1 June 2015 (UTC)


(part about gold ) there does seem to be a very large literature on empirical studies;perhaps someone can add it to the article — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2601:6:3880:CC8:DCF5:EA4D:171A:DD3F (talk) 00:55, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

Gold's theorem is true and the proof is sound. Not all linguists understand this very well -- some fairly big names still claim conspicuous absence counts as negative evidence for the purpose of Gold's theorem, but it does not. However: If you loosen your definition of language learning from "always recognizes all and only grammatically correct productions" to "recognizes correct productions with an arbitrarily small rate of error", then Gold's theorem simply no longer applies, and a proof of learnability in the abstract has existed since the late 1960s. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:06, 15 April 2016 (UTC)

Weird syntax and inconsistency.[edit]

Original sentence ( before my first edit):

It has been proposed that if a language pattern is never encountered, but its probability of being encountered would be very high were it acceptable, then the language learner might be right in considering absence of the pattern as negative evidence.

The problematic construction can be distilled into the following sentence:

Something would be very high were it acceptable.

I can't understand this - seemingly simple - sentence. Something would be very high if what? What is the meaning of "were it acceptable"? I can't find it in any grammar, neither descriptive nor prescriptive.

Maybe the author made a typo and the intended sentence was like:

Something would be very high where it's acceptable.

How about rephrasing our sentence into:

It has been proposed that if a language pattern is never encountered, but its probability of being encountered is very high, where it is acceptable, then the language learner might be right in considering absence of the pattern as negative evidence.

I've replaced "would be" with "is" for obvious reasons. On the other hand, the whole phrase "where it is acceptable" is redundant because acceptability is no criterion here.

What's more - the original sentence is inconsistent because if something is never encountered then its probability of being encountered is exactly zero, not very high.

So our sentence can be changed to:

It has been proposed that if a language pattern is never encountered, although seems to be intuitive, then the language learner might be right in considering absence of the pattern as negative evidence. (talk) 18:25, 1 February 2017 (UTC) I'm not entirely sure, but I always took "were it acceptable" to mean "if it were acceptable" (using the subjunctive mood), so the sentence would be saying ", but its probability of being encountered would be high if it were acceptable (to encounter it?)". The original sentence is indeed hopelessly involved. I'll let someone more knowledgeable on the topic chime in. Me, Myself & I (☮) (talk) 23:22, 1 February 2017 (UTC)

"were it acceptable" as "if it were acceptable"? Oh my God. This is exactly what I have been waiting for. This is so obvious to me now. Yes - subjunctive mood, and inversion (which is archaic here, but sometimes used). How could I not noticed that? It was an enlightening experience for me. Thank you. (talk) 06:03, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

I can get behind that last proposed variant. It greatly simplifies the presentation concept being forwarded; honestly, that sentence as it was written was almost impossible to parse even for someone with background in this area; I can't imagine how inapproachable it was for the average reader looking for a primer on the the topic. In fact, we might go a step farther to:
It has been proposed that if a language pattern is never encountered, although seems to be intuitive, then the language learner might regard the absence of this language pattern as negative evidence.
Afterall, what we are talking about is what the learner intuitively perceives from the null element, not whether this perception is, in any abstract sense, "right". Snow let's rap 03:47, 2 February 2017 (UTC)

You are absolutely right. There is a huge difference between "might be right in considering X as Y" and "might regard X as Y" in any context. And only the latter has any sense in the context of our sentence. But we can go even further, and make our sentence easier to read:
It has been proposed that if a language pattern seems to be intuitive, but is never encountered, then the language learner might regard the absence of this pattern as negative evidence.
The next step might be:
It has been proposed that if a language pattern seems to be intuitive, but is never encountered, then the absence of this pattern might be regarded as negative evidence. (talk) 06:03, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

Yes. Though bear in mind that by switching to the passive voice and losing the grammatical actor, you make it ambiguous as to who is doing the "regarding" of this theoretical mental association. And since we are talking about the learner exclusively as the focus of this observation (not the outside observer), I would suggest that the second to last option is preferable. Snow let's rap 06:26, 3 February 2017 (UTC)
Good catch. I was afraid of that passive voice too, but now your sobering thought has removed any doubt. I think that "Me, Myself & I" agrees with us too, so I have made the suggested changes to the article. (talk) 09:28, 3 February 2017 (UTC)

Good humour[edit]

The argument has long been controversial within the field of linguistics[citation needed],

I nearly spewed. That's the funniest use of "citation needed" I've seen yet.

controversy (n.) 
see Noam Chomsky.

MaxEnt 15:41, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Citations added.·maunus · snunɐɯ· 16:09, 17 March 2017 (UTC)

Potential Changes?[edit]

It would probably be helpful to cite and clarify your definitions of positive and negative evidence in the premises section... Arguably, there is a difference between direct and indirect evidence, and most (if not all) of the evidence that children receive is indirect since children only hear the output of the grammatical system and are not told the rules that compose that system. Children infer that sentences they hear are grammatical (indirect positive evidence) and infer that certain kinds of sentences that are not heard are ungrammatical (indirect negative evidence). Correction also serves as indirect negative evidence, but it is important to note that children don't usually pay attention or correct their speech even when they are told that an utterance is ungrammatical.

Citation [9] also seems like it is not entirely credible since it seems like it is from a blog, though the information cited appears to be good. You might try citing Gleitman and Newport (1995) who portray a strong argument for the poverty of the stimulus and the necessity of innate mechanisms for learning a language. That article also provides further evidence that could be included in the "For the Argument" section of this article (they discuss the ability of home signers, blind children, and deaf children to acquire language and demonstrate the need for an innate mechanism to lay the groundwork for an individual (even if deprived of linguistic input) to learn language). Additionally, it could be helpful to have sections/subheadings for the different evidence that supports the POS argument or denies the POS argument (for example, have a section explaining how home signers support POS, then how blind children's learning of language supports POS, and then have a section about how subject aux inversion supports POS, etc.)

--Rcsender (talk) 16:29, 12 September 2017 (UTC)

Several of the links for sources (6, 14) in this article no longer seem to work, and others link to dubious sources such as blogs or power point presentations. Papers are referenced in text rather than using the references section throughout 'Against the Argument'. A lot of statements such as "some critics argue" and "some linguists" without having references to back up those statements. Facts throughout could use more references.

The 'Against the Argument' section in particular reads like an essay, rather than summarizing the thoughts of the field. Additionally, it might be better to devote more space to actually defining and explaining 'Poverty of the Stimulus' and the different topics within it rather than devoting more than half of the article to the arguments for and against it. Often in the article jargon is used in relation to the topic without being sufficiently defined or linking to another page, which could cause problems for a short overview such as this. The last sentence of the second paragraph of the opening is out of place and does not make sense in context, should be removed or rewritten. Gty97 (talk) 18:34, 13 September 2017 (UTC)

There are several [citation needed] warnings throughout the article, and some statements seem to be not sourced, but drawn from the author's own conclusions, such as "Although Chomsky officially coined the "poverty of the stimulus" theory in 1980, the concept is directly linked to another Chomskyan approach named Plato's Problem." This passage is not cited with a source that verifies this information, nor does it even internally link to the Pluto's Problem wikipedia page for more information.

Aside from citation issues, the paper seems biased against the argument, yet the section titled "Information Against the Argument" the author uses phrases such as "notable figures" or "some linguists argue" without actually specifying who these people are. The entire section to "Information Against the Argument" derails from just counter arguments to poverty of the stimulus to an entire argument against Chomskyan theory and Universal Grammar, which is not relevant to the article. Lord2019 (talk) 18:56, 20 September 2017 (UTC)

The 'For the Argument' section uses words such as "indeed" and "of course", which don't fit into the writing style of Wikipedia. Yvonne.luk96 (talk) 13:58, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

This article is lacking formality and a clear train of thought. The introduction to the article should sound much more grounded in fact, and word choice such as "unlearnable" "therefore" and "some sort of" detract from the validity of the article as a whole. Other phrases throughout the article also detract from this article's validity because they attribute opinions to an unknown "they". Phrases such as "have been claimed" or "it is considered" need to either be cited, or removed from the article. Furthermore, the 'Premises' section should not be cluttered with the definitions of positive and negative evidence, because it takes away from the actual premise of POS. However, a distinction needs to be made here between direct and indirect negative evidence, because it is incorrect to say that children are not provided with any examples of negative evidence. Lizdahl44 (talk) 14:22, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

The "Premises" section does not properly explain negative evidence. It only mentions negative evidence as a result of correction of a child's grammar by a parent, but does not mention indirect negative evidence where a child can get information about the grammar through non-occurrence. The concept is explained in the "Against the Argument" section, but it should be explained fully the first time it is brought up. Also, the final paragraph of the article is in need of a citation. "Finally, it has been argued that people may not learn exactly the same grammars as each other." Who is arguing this? Mvs526 (talk) 14:31, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

"Premises" - Unreferenced definitions of positive & negative evidence. Also, might the article also want to introduce/define indirect negative evidence in regards to language acquisition at this point rather than bringing it up without much explanation in the Harnad article discussion under "against the argument"? Allexan (talk) 15:50, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

In general, language regarding different studies in "for the argument" section is rather informal (essay-like?), where paragraphs are introduced with 'of course,' 'in one study,' and so on. Further, in a few of these paragraphs, it is unclear how exactly the studies' results argue for the poverty argument. Allexan (talk) 15:50, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

A few broken citation links - 19, 32. An additional citation for Chomsky's claim regarding indirect negative evidence might be necessary - unable to locate such in the Harnad article presently referenced. Allexan (talk) 15:50, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

Bringing up nativism in the introduction and not name-dropping empiricism until the "See Also" section is perhaps a bit biased, I think Zwiseguy15 (talk) 17:06, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

There is only once source in the last two paragraphs of the article. These paragraphs come across more as a personal opinion, and less as an unbiased informative source. The 'conclusion' of the against the argument section does not feel conclusive, as it ends with an example. It would also be beneficial to explain (or link relevant information on) structure-dependency for those that don't have as much linguistic knowledge, but are interested in the material. Rather than include the structure-dependency experiment in the article, it would be more beneficial to simply link the experiment/journal article, and provide an analysis/conclusion. Also, the link for reference #19 does not work. --Cgilchri (talk) 18:50, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

There are many links don't work, the sources that are posted are not complete either. Many of the arguments stated are ones that currently have replies to them, since it is a continued conversation. I think just reading the page as a reference, one can get easily misled. There are cases also where the writers put in their own bias opinion (or it just seems like that to me) because of the little source there is or how the sources provided actually do not state exactly what the writer thinks it states. Gsoyoye (talk) 21:55, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

This page needs some serious grammatical help. Many of sentences have in correct grammar and poor word choice. Good writing is especially important to convey these complex theories with out being bias. Maggicurrier (talk) 20:05, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

The evidence against was very thorough and well done but the evidence for seems somewhat underrepresented in comparison. It could be elaborated on a bit with other examples such as infants capacity for understanding anaphoric reference. The last paragraph could use citations as well.Jonahcp (talk) 22:14, 21 September 2017 (UTC)

The premises portion of the article seems to depend on the concept of 'negative evidence', but does not explain what it is or what it does. The explanation of 'negative evidence' does not occur until later in the paper under the "Against the Argument" heading. There are also portions of the article that could use better grammar and word use. KevinHipsman (talk) 17:57, 22 September 2017 (UTC)

I found this article to be somewhat lacking. While it gives a cursory overview of what the Poverty of the Stimulus is, it's a bit unclear at points (especially in the last sentence of the introduction). The word choice in the intro is quite strong: I wouldn't necessarily say that the poverty of the stimulus asserts that language is ″unlearnable″ without some sort of built–in capability; rather, I'd say that children have insufficient evidence to learn language from input alone. The article also often fails to clarify how certain studies (like the Vivian Cook study referred to in the ″For the argument″ section) support or oppose the arguments for Poverty of the Stimulus.

I think it would also be useful if the article clarified what kinds of evidence children lack. The article briefly touches on positive and negative evidence, but I'd like to see some more in–depth discussion about the distinctions between direct and indirect evidence.

One more thing that bothered me: this article uses transition and filler words like ″indeed,″ ″thus,″ and ″therefore″ way too frequently. These words could be removed to improve clarity, readability, and general flow. Shkaplow (talk) 18:09, 22 September 2017 (UTC)

The very last paragraph of the section "Against the argument" has no citations supporting either of the confusing two sides it appears to describe. In fact, it is hard to tell what this paragraph is trying to argue that justifies its presence in this "Against the argument" section. Without citations, the basis behind the arguments cannot be researched, and it is hard to tell what the italicized concepts are referring to. "It has been argued..." by who? Where do you find support for the other two sentences? Also, this last paragraph as a whole does not seem to be representing a viewpoint "against the argument" without bias. The first sentence is immediately contradicted by the next sentence, which uses the words "in many cases" and "in fact" without justification. Potential confusion created by the ambiguous position of the last paragraph distracts the flow of viewpoints in the section and in general, the whole article. Jchung10 (talk) 03:58, 23 September 2017 (UTC)

Firstly I find issue with the overview, particularly the last sentence. It is confusing and when I followed the linked source (source #5), there was only this website (, with no reference to a specific page or article. There was no way to find what the sentence was referring to in order to clear up the meaning, so I think it should be either edited by someone who understands the meaning and can both find a good source to back it up and put it into simpler terms or be deleted from the overview completely. Secondly, this might be somewhat of a biased view on my part from what I have learned and read about the Poverty of the Stimulus argument, but the History section seems much more drawn out than necessary. Though it is interesting to learn about the so-called "Plato's Problem," I don't think it is necessary to have that section be as detailed as it is. On a somewhat related note, the actual Wikipedia article for Plato's Problem does not cite Plato's Meno itself while the Poverty of the Stimulus page does. I think this shows in part how overemphasized the History section is. Although interesting, I do not think that is the most relevant element to the topic. I think the Premises section, on the other hand, could possibly use either elaboration or clarification. Compared to history, the premises of the Poverty of the Stimulus argument are much more relevant and important, so I think that section should be emphasized more, perhaps by being ordered before history.

I liked that both the nativist and constructionist views on the POS argument were covered in the article, because both are important to fully understanding research behind the topic. However I think the content in both sections could be organized slightly better. For instance, in the article overview, "nativists" are mentioned without explanation. Although I know what that means, I don't think it is something that the average person reading the article would know. In the Proposed Evidence section, and specifically it's For the argument section, I think it would be ideal to give a short summary of what it means to be a nativist and where the argument originated from before delving into the evidence. In the Against the argument section there is some mention of constructivism but it is not well structured and gets lost within the other information. A similar format should be followed there so it is intuitive to follow along. Prosetta (talk) 19:48, 22 September 2017 (UTC)

I have chosen to edit the Language Acquisition article. In particular I would like to contribute relevant and useful information about the the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument. I would like to use the Poverty of the Stimulus argument to show how children acquire aspects of semantics and phonology. I will be relying on credible and scholarly sources that I will list belowKevinHipsman (talk) 18:10, 5 October 2017 (UTC):

Laurence, S., & Margolis, E. (2001). The Poverty of the Stimulus Argument. British Journal For The Philosophy Of Science, 52(2), 217.[1] I will use this article to get a general understanding of the Poverty of the Stimulus argument. Lakusta, L., Spinelli, D., & Garcia, K. (2017). The relationship between pre-verbal event representations and semantic structures: The case of goal and source paths. Cognition, 164174-187. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.04.003[2] I will use this article to get a general understanding of how children acquire different aspects of semantics Gropen, Pinker, Hollander & Goldberg. (1992) Affectedness and direct objects: The role of lexical semantics in the acquisition of verb argument structure. Cognition, 41, 153-95 Gropen et al (1989) The Learnability and Acquisition of the Dative Alteration in English. Language, 65, 203-57. KevinHipsman (talk) 21:00, 5 October 2017 (UTC)

Too much Jargon[edit]

It may be because the subject is so rather steep, but this article from the introductory sentences on would be near impossible for a novice, non-linguist to be able to comprehend. Might I suggest taking advantage of the links and linking the instances of jargon to an existing Wikipedia page that would go into more depth explaining the word so that the article can run smoothly without losing readers or getting hung up on defining thing ancillary to the topic of the article.For example, I linked the word "underdetermined" to a Wiki article about Underdeterminacy and left your definition intact. That would be one waay of smoothing out the artilce. I kow this is a braod subject, but a few minor details make all the difference ImJustHereSoIWontGetFined (talk) 18:46, 31 October 2017 (UTC) Montaser ImJustHereSoIWontGetFined (talk) 18:46, 31 October 2017 (UTC)