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Language and the Brain

fall 2021 classes

Class 1

  • What do linguists do?
  • Linguists as part of cognitive science
  • There exists some sentences of setnences such that it allows for recursive composition
  • So once we setup the idea that English cannot be a FSM, what is the data?
  • Langauges that use case markings
    • case markings allow it to mtaintain a more consistent structure modulo case marking
  • chomsky is unconcerned with the statistical metadata that arises from a corpus
    • “internalist” - grammars and structures within a single sentence
    • “externalist” - set of sentences within a corpus
  • for sentences to make sense, we assign a phoronlogical structure to pronounce sentences
    • which then means a sentence makes sense iff:
      • syntax (chomsky is here) is correct
      • phoronological sufficent (this can be derived from statistics)
  • “there exists a faculty of language” - but is there a single faculty of langauge

Class 2 - 9/13

  • what is the neo-durkheimian relationship between langauge and thought?
  • is language just a set of sentences?
    • in the 70’s, they thought that sentences are a sequence of words or sounds
    • what does this leave out? -> hidden syntax and semantics
      • syntax cannot directly be seen
      • semantics sometimes contain a truth value
      • oftentimes this forms the \(\{form/sound, meaning\}\)
      • chomsky identified this as a triplet of \(\{form, syntax, meaning\}\)
  • sentences in english are infinite due to recursion (aka not finite structured)_
    • chomsky also distinguished between “lists” and “conjunctions”
    • lists as \(\mathbb{N}\)
    • however, langauge (or at least english) is “uninterestingly” infinite
      • as you push further out and generate more sentences, the sentences themselves become regularized
  • for chomsky, grammar is the compression of language, and if you memorize words you can generate an infinite set of sentences
  • also must make a distinction between “actual” and “potential”
    • “actual” sentences are bound by the maximum speaker time or computation time
    • “potential” sentences are the infinite set of all sentences generatable
  • what are the grammatical rules for telling us if a word is an actual word?
    • “moak” -> is this a word?
    • we have grammars to say this is a potential word, but to reject a word, we actually do a semi-exhaustive search through our internal dictionaries to find out
  • some words enter the vernacular after it is used
    • “jabberwocky”, for example
  • how do we distinguish words that are archaeic/low frequency from words that are incorrect?
  • what was the theory of cognitive science before the 60’s?
    • behavioralism
  • learning is the intentional modification of the environment in order to produce different future behaviors
  • what is actually being “learned” when you acquire a langauge?
    • a child does not do a blind word/object association (i.e. this is a ball)
    • the faculty of langauge extends beyond this into “teaching” or “learning” a grammar and a generative capacity
  • grammars have variance built in