As with the retreat from the cross-linguistic data and the tool-kit argument, the idea of performance masking competence is also pretty much unfalsifiable. Retreats to this type of claim are common in declining scientific paradigms that lack a strong empirical base — consider, for instance, Freudian psychology and Marxist interpretations of history.

Even beyond these empirical challenges to universal grammar, psycholinguists who work with children have difficulty conceiving theoretically of a process in which children start with the same algebraic grammatical rules for all languages and then proceed to figure out how a particular language — whether English or Swahili — connects with that rule scheme.