Chomsky's Problem/Mystery Distinction

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Noam Chomsky often appeals to the distinction between problems and mysteries. This chapter explains and evaluates Chomsky's remarks on these topics scattered throughout numerous texts. Next, it explains the p/m distinction via Chomsky's analogy of science with language. The chapter briefly discusses the topic of linguistic creativity. It focuses on the distinction itself, not what might fall under it. The chapter critically evaluates Chomsky's considerations in favor of the conception of the p/m distinction. A further suggestion from Chomsky is that convergence is a key signature of a science-forming faculty. Convergence on scientific theories requires explanation, for that there is convergence at all appears not to follow from the observational data, still less the socio-cultural facts of scientific practice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Companion to Chomsky
EditorsNicholas Allott, Tarje Lohndal, Georges Rey
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781119598732
ISBN (Print)978-1-119-59870-1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Analogy
  • Convergence
  • Linguistic creativity
  • Noam chomsky
  • Scientific theories
  • Socio-cultural facts

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