By Andrea Moro

Can there be this kind of factor as an most unlikely human language? A biologist might describe an very unlikely animal as person who is going opposed to the actual legislation of nature (entropy, for instance, or gravity). Are there this sort of legislation that constrain languages? during this ebook, Andrea Moro -- a exceptional linguist and neuroscientist -- investigates the potential of very unlikely languages, looking out, as he does so, for the indelible "fingerprint" of human language.

Moro indicates how the very suggestion of most unlikely languages has assisted in shaping examine at the final goal of linguistics: to outline the category of attainable human languages. he's taking us past the bounds of Babel, to the set of houses that, regardless of appearances, all languages percentage, and explores the resources of that order, drawing on clinical experiments he himself helped layout. Moro compares syntax to the opposite aspect of a tapestry revealing a hidden and it appears difficult constitution. He describes the mind as a sieve, considers the truth of (linguistic) timber, and listens for the sound of notion by way of recording electric task within the mind. phrases and sentences, he tells us, are like symphonies and constellations: they've got no content material in their personal; they exist simply because we hearken to them and examine them. we're a part of the data.

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Extra resources for Impossible Languages

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We have concluded that pure linear sequence is not enough to represent syntax. What shape does the extra dimension give to the representation of syntax? Let us again consider the sequence John smiles. The minimal requirement here is that one can take John and smiles as two separate units and combine them into a larger one. An overwhelming amount of research, stemming in particular from the original work by Richard Kayne, suggests that this minimal binary rule of combination—technically referred to as Merge—is not only necessary but sufficient to represent all syntactic combinations.

Syntax is a difficult field of research and one that like all other sciences requires infinite patience and intuition (and luck, if we keep in mind that, as Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors only the prepared mind”). It’s like a Rubik’s cube: changing one hypothesis will almost certainly affect another one. It is within this unexpectedly complex scenario that the more we explore the structure of language, the more we realize that not only do impossible languages exist, but they can hardly be considered The Unreasonable Sieve 43 the “arbitrary, cultural conventions” that Lenneberg (1967) disputed: rather, it appears that they’re determined by other factors, including biologically driven restrictions.

One interesting thing about the majority of these operations is that the phonological content of all copies but one is deleted. In other words, in our example, only one copy of who is pronounced; the other (the barred one) is simply intended at the semantic and syntactic level but is not realized at the phonological level. Moreover, movement is not a special operation: the very fact that it preserves the structure of phrases is not stipulated (as suggested in the influential work by Emonds 1976); it is just a welcome consequence.

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