A Naturalist Reconstruction of Minimalist and Evolutionary Biolinguistics

  • Hiroki Narita Harvard University
  • Koji Fujita Kyoto University
Keywords: evolutionary/biological adequacy, language evolution, methodological/metaphysical naturalism, minimalist program, third factor of language design


Kinsella & Marcus (2009; K&M) argue that considerations of biological evolution invalidate the picture of optimal language design put forward under the rubric of the minimalist program (Chomsky 1993 et seq.), but in this article it will be pointed out that K&M’s objection is undermined by (i) their misunderstanding of minimalism as imposing an aprioristic presumption of optimality and (ii) their failure to discuss the third factor of language design. It is proposed that the essence of K&M’s suggestion be reconstructed as the sound warning that one should refrain from any preconceptions about the object of inquiry, to which K&M commit themselves based on their biased view of evolution. A different reflection will be cast on the current minimalist literature, arguably along the lines K&M envisaged but never completed, converging on a recommendation of methodological (and, in a somewhat unconventional sense, metaphysical) naturalism.