29 Dec 2010

The Media sell audiences, not papers or programmes

“The papers sold on their contents and derived their profits from the pennies or halfpennies paid by the readers. Gradually there came a change, almost without the proprietors noticing it. The papers came to depend increasingly on the money they received for advertisements. Larger circulation meant higher advertising rates. Hence circulation mattered in itself, even when each additional copy sold involved a slight additional loss. The reader no longer bought newspapers. Newspapers bought readers.”  The newspaper war of the 1930s, described by AJP Taylor, English History 1914-1945, p387, Penguin

“All the papers that matter live off their advertisements, and the advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.” England your England, George Orwell, 1941

5 Dec 2010

Chomsky: transformational grammar and Cartesian linguistics

In psycholinguistics ‘a specific event, Chomsky’s review of Skinner’s book on ‘Verbal Behavior’, was decisive. In the late 1950s, Chomsky, a young professor at MIT, shredded behavourist pretenstons to give an adequate account of language and thus ended their pretensons to explain human beings.'

Psycholinguistics embraced the structuralism of Saussure and an assumption that communication is possible ‘even between people who do not share each other’s language because there are certain formal similarities in all languages. Psycholinguistics sought to relate these formal similarities in languages to the structure of mind and brain.'

Chomsky elaborated ‘a Cartesian theory of language, a theory that presupposes the existence of universal, innate grammatical structures. The result was a concrete research programme for lingutistics, to search out the grammatical universals and to trace how they underlie actual languages  ... Chomsky’s programme - Cartesian linguistics - traced all language to a few innate mental principles which were thought to be in effect a priori in the activity of reason but it faced rival programmes based on research on how children do in fact develop their use of language in different cultures.'

(Roger Smith, the fontana history of the Human Sciences, 1997 p835-6)