Howard Lasnik and Jeffrey L. Lidz
This article explores what Noam Chomsky called ‘the argument from poverty of the stimulus’: the argument that our experience far underdetermines our knowledge and hence that our biological endowment is responsible for much of the derived state. It first frames the poverty of the stimulus argument either in terms of the set of sentences allowed by the grammar (its weak generative capacity) or the set of structures generated by the grammar (its strong generative capacity). It then considers the five steps to a poverty argument and goes on to discuss the possibility that children can learn via indirect negative evidence on the basis of Bayesian learning algorithms. It also examines structure dependence, polar interrogatives, and artificial phrase structure and concludes by explaining how Universal Grammar shapes the representation of all languages and enables learners to acquire the complex system of knowledge that undergirds the ability to produce and understand novel sentences.
Friedemann Pulvermüller, Bert Cappelle, and Yury Shtyrov
Monique Lamers and Esther Ruigendijk
Case provides the language user with a rich source of information for conveying meaningful messages in natural language use. Psycholinguistic research has shown that in the intact human language system, the morphologically realised case might help to distinguish the arguments, identify the syntactic function, and trigger certain parsing mechanisms, such as attachment decisions, establishing phrase boundaries, and, thus, providing essential information for comprehension. The question arises if and how a disturbance of the language system as in aphasia affects this ability to use case information. This article starts with a brief introduction to aphasiology, sketching the language problems known to characterise the different aphasic syndromes. It then discusses some important accounts for the aphasic impairment in language comprehension, either directly addressing morphological case in the impaired language system or highly related issues, such as the comprehension of canonical and non-canonical sentences. For production, the emphasis is on cross-linguistic findings on the realisation of case-marked entities such as demonstrative pronouns and pronouns.
This chapter illustrates the technical notion of ‘explanatory adequacy’ in the context of the other forms of empirical adequacy envisaged in the history of generative grammar: an analysis of a linguistic phenomenon is said to meet ‘explanatory adequacy’ when it comes with a reasonable account of how the phenomenon is acquired by the language learner. It discusses the relevance of arguments from the poverty of the stimulus, which bear on the complexity of the task that every language learner successfully accomplishes, and therefore define critical cases for evaluating the explanatory adequacy of a linguistic analysis. After illustrating the impact that parametric models had on the possibility of achieving explanatory adequacy on a large scale, the chapter addresses the role that explanatory adequacy plays in the context of the Minimalist Program, and the interplay that the concept has with the further explanation ‘beyond explanatory adequacy’ that minimalist analysis seeks.
This chapter investigates how conceptual representations of sources of knowledge make contact with linguistic evidentiality. By drawing on empirical evidence from both adult and child speakers of languages with different evidential systems, the present chapter aims to understand which aspects of cognition are shared by speakers of different languages and which aspects may be susceptible to linguistic influences. Findings from these lines of work support a universalist view of the relation between language and cognition, according to which linguistic categories of evidentiality do not shape, but build on conceptual representations of sources of knowledge that are shared across speakers of different languages.
Alexander Maye and Andreas K. Engel
This article reviews theories explaining the formation of neuronal assemblies and the functions that assemblies can have, presents computational models of oscillatory neural networks, and shows how they can carry information. The basic idea of a model, “correlation theory of brain function” is that, within a network of anatomical connections, smaller topological networks—cell assemblies in other words—can develop by means of synaptic modulation. This modulation is supposed to occur on two different timescales. Correlated activation of a set of neurons activates the synaptic connections between these neurons, while uncorrelated activation deactivates them. The correlation theory is neutral with regard to the neurophysiological types of correlated activity. The original idea refers to correlations between irregular spike trains or bursts of single neurons. A special case is the temporal correlation of rhythmic, or oscillatory, activity, which can be observed on the single neuron level as well as on the macroscopic level.
Cristina Guardiano and Giuseppe Longobardi
The Parametric Comparison Method (PCM) is a comparative procedure designed to investigate phylogenetic relationships between languages. It is based on the assumption that (syntactic) parameter theories may provide a radically new and mathematically reliable system or studying the historical evolution and classification of languages into families, and that the synchronic and the historical study of formal grammar can be ultimately related within a unified approach, made available precisely by the rise of parametric linguistics. This chapter shows that parameter analyses can be successfully used to attain historical adequacy: the fact that parametric classifications largely match the established families demonstrates the possibility of reconstructing history through syntactic parameters, which appear to carry a chronologically deep, statistically robust, and prevailingly vertical historical signal. In addition, parameter systems as theories of grammatical variation and its implicational structure receive novel support precisely from their success with historical issues: the correctness of the phylogenetic hypotheses made by the PCM further confirms the universal theory of parameters, constraints, and implications subsumed into it.
C.-T. James Huang and Ian Roberts
The Principles-and-Parameters Theory marked an important milestone in formal linguistic theoryby offering a plausible solution to the logical problem of language acquisition, leading to a productive field of inquiry that uncovered important universal properties and macro-patterns of parametric variation among an unprecedented number of languages. Recent advances in parametric theory have capitalized on microparametric variation, raising certain questions about the status of macro-parameters. In this chapter, developing recent work and using the facts of Chinese as a paradigm case, we show that (a) both macro- and microparameters are needed in linguistic theory, (b) macroparameters are simply aggregates of microparameters acting in concert with a conservative learning strategy, and (c) the (micro)parameters themselves are hierarchically organized. Assuming a ‘three factors’ model, we take parameters to be emergent properties that result from the interaction of a radically unspecified UG, experience, and third-factor principles like Feature Economy and Input Generalization.
Terje Lohndal and Juan Uriagereka
This chapter discusses factors determining the structure of an I-language: genetic endowment, input/exposure to language, and principles not specific to language. The latter have become known as ‘third factors,’ which are argued to be principles that contribute to shaping the structure of grammars but that are not specific to language. Computational efficiency is one example of such a principle that has been suggested. In this chapter, the historical roots of the third factor perspective is traced and discussed. The third factor perspective in linguistics is also compared to a similar perspective in comparative biology outlined by the late Stephen Jay Gould. After a review of a few examples of what plausible third factors may be, the chapter ends with a discussion of the complex task of determining whether a given linguistic condition may be a third factor.
Neuropsychological disorders provide an important perspective to our understanding of the nature of words. This chapter discusses words as both targets of and signposts to pathology, in the context of language and psychological disorders. The standard perspective of words as targets of pathology informs not only the construction of language processing models but also, as in the case of anomia, age-old philosophical debates about words and proper names. The perspective of words as signposts to pathology will be discussed with the specific example of metaphors used by patients of psychogenic seizures and delusional thoughts. Some potential directions on metaphor and corpus research in mental health discourse will be proposed.