The boundaries of Babel. Impossible languages, logic and the brain
Prof. Andrea Moro
One of the most important discoveries of modern linguistics is that languages cannot vary arbitrarily: every grammar must satisfy a few universal principles which, in interacting with each other, can engender an enormous, but nevertheless finite, number of grammatical variations. Naturally, the system is so complex that these units have for a long time eluded scientific observation: it has only been with the advent of new, rigorous research methodologies based on the kind of formalization and abstraction typical of the natural sciences, that we have reached this goal. For many years it has been debated whether this limit on grammatical variation was the product of convention or biology; today, new neuroimaging techniques, like functional magnetic resonance, allow us to acquire data that support the hypothesis that these units have a biological basis.
This programme of conferences is developed for Lingua Madre by LAC edu in cooperation with ticinoscienza.ch, a project of IBSA Foundation for scientific research
Moro is full professor of General Linguistics, Director of the Department of Cognitive, Behavioural and Social Sciences, founder of the Center for Neurocognition and Theoretical Syntax (NEtS) which he directed for six years, and Deputy Director at the University School for Advanced Studies IUSS Pavia. Former director of the interfaculty program in cognitive neuroscience at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan which he contributed to found in 1996 he has been associate professor at the University of Bologna. He has been Fulbright student and visiting scientist at MIT and at Harvard University several times and obtained a “Diplôme d'études supérieures en théorie de la syntaxe et syntaxe comparative” at the University of Geneva. He lectured in many universities in the US and the EU. His main fields of research are theoretical syntax (in particular copular sentences and Dynamic Antisymmetry) and neurolinguistics (in particular "impossible languages" and electrophysiological representation of syntax). He published a few books in English and Italian: The raising of predicates (Cambridge University Press, 1997); Dynamic Antisymmetry (The MIT press, 2000), I confini di Babele, II edizione (Il Mulino, 2015; trad. ingl. The boundaries of Babel, MIT Press 2015), Breve storia del verbo essere (Adelphi, 2010; trad. ingl. A short history of "be", MIT Press, in preparazione), Parlo dunque sono (Adelphi 2012; trad. ing. I speak therefore I am, Columbia University Press 2016), The Equilibrium of Human Syntax (Routledge, 2013), Impossible Languages (The MIT Press, 2016). His first novel is "Il segreto di Pietramala" (La Nave di Teseo, 2018). His papers on international journals including Nature Neuroscience, Nature Human Behaviour, the Proceedings of the American Academy of Science, Cortex, Trends in Cognitive Science, Lingua and Linguistic Inquiry.