Jesse Snedeker - Harvard University

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 - 12:00pm
PSH 101

Clean Mapping: How conceptual structure might serve as the developmental and phylogenetic starting point of syntax

In this talk, I will entertain an old and powerful idea: that language reflects the structure of thought.  This hypothesis has several attractive properties.  First, it leads to a theory of language development that puts meaning (and thus communication) front and center, without attempting to reduce structure to function.  This framework allows us to begin integrating work from infant cognition, semantic bootstrapping, syntactic bootstrapping, and statistical learning.  This approach also provides a more satisfying evolutionary account, calling into question the underlying assumption of minimalism (that language is the result of a single evolutionary change).  We will look at some data on the implications of this hypothesis for language development and language creation (Nicaraguan Sign Language).  I will naively and optimistically conclude that this is good direction to go looking in, and then you all will tell me why I'm wrong.

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