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Neurosyntax and fundamentals of neurolinguistics (a.a. 2019/20)


Neurolinguistics aims at studying the correlates between (the computation of) linguistic structures and the neurophysiological response of the brain as one can infer from the quantitative measures obtained by different techniques (mainly, neuroimaging and electrophysiological methods). This new field was made possible by the revolution of generative grammar whose project is twofold: decomposing the complexity of traditional linguistic taxonomies into the interaction of more primitive entities, and by doing so defining the class of “possible human language”. Accordingly, in the first part of the course the fundamental ideas of general linguistics will be addressed, in particular, syntax which constitutes the exclusive boundary between human languages and all the other systems of communications of living creatures: in particular we will approach the three fundamental domains of recursion, locality and displacement in a unitary way. Three major issues will be addressed: are there impossible languages? When is sound paired to meaning? What is symmetry in syntax and where to find it.


January 20th 2020, 10:00 – 13:00 - NEW January 29th classroom 1-17
January 21st 2020, 10:00 - 13:00
January 22nd 2020, 10:00 - 14:00


  • Everaert, M. – Huybregts, M. – Berwick, R. – Chomsky, N. – Tattersall, I. – Moro, A. – Boluhis, J. J. “What is language and how could it have evolved?” (2017), Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Trends In Cognitive Sciences (TICS), p. 1-21, Vol 8.
  • Friederici, A. – Chomsky, N. – Berwick, R. – Moro, A. – Bulhuis, J. (2017) “Language, mind and Brain”, Nature Human Behaviour, Vol. 1 pp. 713 – 722 DOI: 10.1038/s41562-017-0184-4.
  • Kandell, E. – Hudspeth, “Overall Perspective” in Principles of Neural Science Fifth Edition (Kandell et al. eds), p. 5-18, McGraw-Hill, New York. 
  • Moro, A. (2015) The Boundaries of Babel (Second Edition), MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Moro, A. (2016) Impossible Languages, MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts.

Nota bene: extra readings may be further assigned according to specific interests of the students.


The evaluation will be based on an oral exam.

Credits: 2

Andrea Moro

Professore Ordinario di Linguistica Generale

Ciclo : XXXV

Tipologia corso : Tipo a

Periodo: Semestre I

Anno accademico: 2019-2020

Luogo : Aula 1-15

Durata : 10 ore