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Incontri con la Scienza - The Boundaries of Babel, with Andrea Moro



Incontri con la Scienza - The Boundaries of Babel, with Andrea Moro


The brain and the enigma of impossible languages

One of the major discoveries of modern linguistics is that languages cannot vary unboundedly: every grammar must meet a common set of principles which generate an enormous but not infinite number of combinations in a modular way, admitting a some intertwined degree of freedom. 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. A further topic relates to the sources of order as displayed in the syntax of natural languages; we will approach the physical basis of language. Language consists of waves: mechanical waves of air outside our brain (sound) and electric waves inside it (neuronal network). Andrea Moro will show that electric waves manifest sound like shapes even in the absence of any utterances paving the road to the deciphering of the neuronal code exploited by neurons with consequences on theoretical and applicative issues, such as the evolution of human language and the access to inner thought.Andrea Moro is Professor of General Linguistics at the Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia, Italy, where he is also Director of the Research Center for Neurolinguistics and Theoretical Syntax (NEtS). He is the author of The Boundaries of Babel: The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages (MIT Press) and other books.


Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Time: At 6:30 pm

Admission : Free


Italian Institute of Culture