Poverty of the Stimulus Without Tears
Lisa Pearl
April 2021

Poverty of the stimulus has been at the heart of ferocious and tear-filled debates at the nexus of psychology, linguistics, and philosophy for decades. This review is intended as a guide for readers without a formal linguistics or philosophy background, focusing on what poverty of the stimulus is and how it’s been interpreted, which is traditionally where the tears have come in. I discuss poverty of the stimulus from the perspective of language development, highlighting how poverty of the stimulus relates to expectations about learning and the data available to learn from. I describe common interpretations of what poverty of the stimulus means when it occurs, and approaches for determining when poverty of the stimulus is in fact occurring. I close with illustrative examples of poverty of the stimulus in the domains of syntax, lexical semantics, and phonology, and discuss the value of identifying instances of poverty of the stimulus when it comes to understanding language development.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004646
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: poverty of the stimulus, constrained generalization, quantitative approaches, nativists, linguistic nativists, non-linguistic nativists, empiricists, semantics, syntax, phonology
previous versions: v2 [March 2020]
v1 [June 2019]
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