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"Impossible Languages. A Case Study in the Biological Foundations of Language". A Lecture by Andrea Moro



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 grammars.


The lecture is in English with Japanese simultaneous translation.


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Andrea Moro (1962) is full professor of General Linguistics at the Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia and funder and former co-director of the Research Center for Neurocognition and Theoretical Syntax (NeTS). Since 1988 - as a Fulbright student - he has been a visiting scientist at MIT and at Harvard University several times; in 1993 he obtained a "Diplôme d'études supérieures en théorie de la syntaxe et syntaxe comparative" at the Université de Genève. He lectured in many universities in Europe, the USA and Japan, including the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, the Collège de France, the École Normale Supérieure, the University of Cambridge and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig. His main fields of research are theoretical syntax and neurolinguistics. Among his books: The Raising of Predicates (Cambridge University Press, 1997), Dynamic Antisymmetry (MIT Press, 2000) and The Boundaries of Babel (2nd ed. MIT Press, 2015), Breve storia del verbo “essere” (Adelphi, 2010), I Speak Therefore I Am (Columbia University Press, 2016), The Equilibrium of Human Syntax (Routledge, 2013), and Impossible Languages (Mit Press, 2016); he also published several papers on international journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Linguistic Inquiry, Lingua, Nature Neuroscience and Nature Human Behaviour.



Data: Dom 5 Nov 2017

Orario: Alle 18:30

Organizzato da : イタリア文化会館

Ingresso : Libero


Italian Institute of Culture in Tokyo