February 28, 2014

Jackman Lecture Series: Andrea Moro

The second talk of the Jackman Lecture Series "Beyond Babel: Meanings in the Minds of Speakers" takes place this Friday, Feb 28, starting at 3pm (sharp) in the Jackman Humanities Building at 170 St. George Street (Room 100).

Speaker: Andrea Moro, Institute for Advanced Study, University of Pavia

Title: “The Boundaries of Babel: Notes Between the Brain and Syntax”


One of the major discoveries of modern linguistics is that languages cannot vary unboundedly: every grammar must meet some universal principles which generate an enormous but not infinite number of combinations in a modular way. The system is so complex that this underlying uniformity has escaped the attention of scholars for centuries. Only formal grammars have been able to arrive at this discovery in the last fifty years of research. A crucial question that naturally arises from this state of affairs is whether the limit of variation among grammars is accidental or biologically driven. Recent methodologies that allow us to explore the functioning of the brain in vivo have allowed us to approach this question in a new way. By testing the acquisition of artificial languages which violate the universal principles of grammar it has been possible to provide strong evidence in favour of a biological perspective to the mystery of the absence of entire classes of conceivable

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