Chomsky sotto attacco: il caso della ricorsione / Chomsky under attack. The case of recursion

  • Alfredo Paternoster
Keywords: recursion, minimalism, productivity, linguistic universals, Merge


According to some critics of the generativist program, recursion is not a linguistic universal, thus it cannot be regarded as the distinctive property of natural language. The criticism is based on a counterexample: Pirahã language, which seems to be devoid of any nestled structure. Moreover, there are other languages, such as Bininj Gun-wok, Kathlamet and Kayardild, in which nestled structures are very rare or limited to only one level of nestling.

In this paper I propose to address this issue not from the point of view of the (stricto sensu) universality of recursion, but, instead, from the point of view of its explanatory role. In other words, the real question is to what extent we need recursion to explain how language works. More specifically, I will argue that: i) recursion is the best explanation of the discrete infinity –which is a constitutive property of language; and ii) syntax must have a recursive structure, because it must express conceptual structures that are in turn recursive.


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How to Cite
Paternoster, A. (2016) “Chomsky sotto attacco: il caso della ricorsione / Chomsky under attack. The case of recursion”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 00. Available at: (Accessed: 28September2023).