xon wrote:Perhaps I am not well-enough acquainted with Chomsky. Perhaps I could teach him a thing or two. Any opinions on this matter from others?
Human beings have appendages which make them adept at using computer keyboards. Most other animals do not have fingers nor anything similar to fingers, so they would have a hard time using a keyboard, even if they were smart enough to understand what keyboards are for.
Clearly, fingers are not a learned skill... they are part of the hardware. You are born with them.
Now, did fingers evolve in order so that we can use keyboards? No, of course not. It's the other way around. Keyboards are designed for human fingers.
It's not so far-fetched to imagine that the human brain has some hardwired features which make us adept at using language. These features may have evolved before language, for some other reason. Their usefulness for language might just be a happy accident. But they may be there nevertheless.
We might say that human language was designed for the particular contours of the human mind. When humans go about the task of inventing languages, they will tend to invent languages that are suitable for their own brains.
IMHO science is very much in the dark on how the brain works. So, it's all speculation, at this point.
My own hunch is that language is a combination of many things -- hardwired skills as well has a few special learned skills, which are not hardwired at all, as you described.
For sure, I do not believe that the human mind is a completely blank slate. A great deal of the mind is hardwired and can't really be changed through training. We like to think of ourselves as super-smart and firmly in control of ourselves, but it's not quite as true as we might like. We have the brains we were born with, and our ability to change ourselves (through training or otherwise) is limited. We have the talents and the foibles that the Gods alotted us.