The Equilibrium of Human Syntax

Symmetries in the Brain

The Equilibrium of Human Syntax

This book assembles a collection of papers in two different domains: formal syntax and neurolinguistics. Here Moro provides evidence that the two fields are becoming more and more interconnected and that the new fascinating empirical questions and results in the latter field cannot be obtained without the theoretical base provided by the former. The book is organized in two parts: Part 1 focuses on theoretical and empirical issues in a comparative perspective (including the nature of syntactic movement, the theory of locality and a far reaching and influential theory of copular sentences). Part 2 provides the original sources of some innovative and pioneering experiments based on neuroimaging techniques (focusing on the biological nature of recursion and the interpretation of negative sentences). Moro concludes with an assessment of the impact of these perspectives on the theory of the evolution of language. The leading and pervasive idea unifying all the arguments developed here is the role of symmetry (breaking) in syntax and in the relationship between language and the human brain.

Primitive Elements of Grammatical Theory

Papers by Jean-Roger Vergnaud and His Collaborators

Primitive Elements of Grammatical Theory

This book is a compilation of manuscripts and publications from 2001-2010 by Jean-Roger Vergnaud, in collaboration with colleagues and students. This work is guided by the scientific belief that broader mathematical principles should guide linguistic inquiry, as they guide classical biology and physics. From this, Vergnaud’s hypotheses take the representation of the computational component of language to a more abstract level: one that derives constituent structure. He treats linguistic features as primitives, and argues that a 2 x n matrix allows for multiple discrete dimensions to represent symmetries in linguistic features and to derive the fabric of syntax (and perhaps of phonology as well). Three primary research questions guide the core of these papers. (A) Methodologically, how can broadly defined mathematical/cognitive principles guide linguistic investigation? (B) To what extent do general mathematical principles apply across linguistic domains? What principles guide computation at different levels of linguistic structure (phonology, metrical structure, syntax)? (C) How is the computational domain defined? In these manuscripts, Vergnaud’s goal is not to radically depart from the Minimalist Program within generative grammar, but rather to take the underlying goal of the generative program and bring it to an even more general scientific level. The themes of symmetry and periodicity in this book reflect his goal of scientific progress in linguistics, and he has opened the doors to new exploration of old empirical problems in linguistics that may, someday, have deeper biological and physical explanations through the theory presented in this publication.

Language, Syntax, and the Natural Sciences

Language, Syntax, and the Natural Sciences

An exploration of human language from the perspective of the natural sciences, this outstanding book brings together leading specialists to discuss the scientific connection of language to disciplines such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.

A Brief History of the Verb To Be

A Brief History of the Verb To Be

A journey through linguistic time and space, from Aristotle through the twentieth century's “era of syntax,” in search of a dangerous verb and its significance. Beginning with the early works of Aristotle, the interpretation of the verb to be runs through Western linguistic thought like Ariadne's thread. As it unravels, it becomes intertwined with philosophy, metaphysics, logic, and even with mathematics—so much so that Bertrand Russell showed no hesitation in proclaiming that the verb to be was a disgrace to the human race. With the conviction that this verb penetrates modern linguistic thinking, creating scandal in its wake and, like a Trojan horse of linguistics, introducing disruptive elements that lead us to rethink radically the most basic structure of human language—the sentence—Andrea Moro reconstructs this history. From classical Greece to the dueling masters of medieval logic through the revolutionary geniuses from the seventeenth century to the Enlightenment, and finally to the twentieth century—when linguistics became a driving force and model for neuroscience—the plot unfolds like a detective story, culminating in the discovery of a formula that solves the problem even as it raises new questions—about language, evolution, and the nature and structure of the human mind. While Moro never resorts to easy shortcuts, A Brief History of the Verb To Be isn't burdened with inaccessible formulas and always refers to the broader picture of mind and language. In this way it serves as an engaging introduction to a new field of cutting-edge research.

I Speak, Therefore I Am

Seventeen Thoughts About Language

I Speak, Therefore I Am

There are no men so dull and stupid, not even idiots, as to be incapable of joining together different words, and thereby constructing a declaration by which to make their thoughts understood.... On the other hand, there is no other animal, however perfect or happily circumstanced which can do the like.—Descartes Language is more like a snowflake than a giraffe's neck. Its specific properties are determined by laws of nature, they have not developed through the accumulation of historical accidents.—Noam Chomsky In I Speak, Therefore I Am, the Italian linguist and neuroscientist Andrea Moro composes an album of his favorite quotations from the history of linguistics, beginning with the Book of Genesis and the power of naming and concluding with Noam Chomsky's metaphor that language is a snowflake. Moro's seventeen linguistic thoughts and his commentary on them display the humanness of language: our need to name and interpret this world and create imaginary ones, to express and understand ourselves. This book is sure to delight anyone who enjoys the ineffable paradox that is human language.

Process, Image, and Meaning

A realistic model of the meaning of sentences and narrative texts

Process, Image, and Meaning

The general topic of this book is the development of a “realistic” model of meaning; it has to account for the ecological basis of meaning in perception, action, and interaction, and is realistic in the sense of “scientific realism”, i.e. it is based on the most successful paradigm of modern science: dynamical systems theory. In Part One a model of sentences is put forward. The first chapter outlines the philosophical background of a theory of meaning. Chapter 2 gives a very short summary of recent proposals for a semantic model which considers image-like schemata. In Chapter 3 a realistic model of valence and basic predication is developed in detail. Chapter 4 treats multistability in meaning and the application of chaos theory and dissipative structures in semantics. Chapter 5 outlines the global framework of a stratified universe of meanings, and Chapter 6 prepares the way for Part Two: the analysis of narrative texts. Oral narratives of personal experience are the prototypical form in which experienced events are organized with the aim of remaking a piece of reality. In Chapter 7 a discrete grammar based on vectorial schemata is developed. Chapters 8 and 9 elaborate the “syntax of narratives” in Chapter 7. Chapter 10 progress to conversational dynamics.

Rhyme and Reason

An Introduction to Minimalist Syntax

Rhyme and Reason

This unusual book takes the form of a dialogue between a linguist and another scientist. This unusual book takes the form of a dialogue between a linguist and another scientist. The dialogue takes place over six days, with each day devoted to a particular topic--and the ensuing digressions. The role of the linguist is to present the fundamentals of the minimalist program of contemporary generative grammar. Although the linguist serves essentially as a voice for Noam Chomsky's ideas, he is not intended to be a portrait of Chomsky himself. The other scientist functions as a kind of devil's advocate, making the arguments that linguists tend to face from those in the "harder" sciences. The author does far more than simply present the minimalist program. He conducts a running argument over the status of theoretical linguistics as a natural science. He raises the general issues of how we conceive words, phrases, and transformations, and what these processes tell us about the human mind. He also attempts to reconcile generative grammar with the punctuated equilibrium version of evolutionary theory. In his foreword, Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini says, "The vast number of readers who have been enthralled by Goedel, Escher, Bach may well like also this syntactic companion, a sort of 'Chomsky, Fibonacci, Bach.'".

History of Language

History of Language

It is tempting to take the tremendous rate of contemporary linguistic change for granted. What is required, in fact, is a radical reinterpretation of what language is. Steven Roger Fischer begins his book with an examination of the modes of communication used by dolphins, birds and primates as the first contexts in which the concept of "language" might be applied. As he charts the history of language from the times of Homo erectus, Neanderthal humans and Homo sapiens through to the nineteenth century, when the science of linguistics was developed, Fischer analyses the emergence of language as a science and its development as a written form. He considers the rise of pidgin, creole, jargon and slang, as well as the effects radio and television, propaganda, advertising and the media are having on language today. Looking to the future, he shows how electronic media will continue to reshape and re-invent the ways in which we communicate. "[a] delightful and unexpectedly accessible book ... a virtuoso tour of the linguistic world."—The Economist "... few who read this remarkable study will regard language in quite the same way again."—The Good Book Guide

Language

Language