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Theoretical Syntax and Neurolinguistics - a.y. 2021/22


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 some fundamental ideas of general linguistics will be addressed, in particular, syntax, i.e. the exclusive boundary between human languages and all the other animals’ systems of communications; three fundamental domains will be approached in a unitary way: recursion, locality and displacement. Three major issues will be addressed: why are there impossible languages? When is sound paired to meaning? What is symmetry in syntax and where to find it.


October 4th, 2021, 9:00 - 12:00
October 5th, 2021, 9:00 - 12:00
October 6th, 2021, 9:00 - 13:00


1. Artoni, F. - d’Orio, P.- Catricalà, E. – Conca, F. – Bottoni, F. – Pelliccia, V. – Sartori, I. – Lo Russo, G. – Cappa, S. – Micera, S. – Moro, A.  (2000) “High gamma response tracks different syntactic structures in homophonous phrases”.  Nature Sci Rep 10, 7537.
2. 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 (TiCS), p. 1-21, Vol 8.
3. 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.
4. Moro, A. (2000) Dynamic Antisymmetry, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
5. Moro, A. (2015) The Boundaries of Babel (Second Edition), MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts; or 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 : XXXVII

Tipologia corso : Tipo a

Periodo: Semestre I

Anno accademico: 2021-2022

Luogo : Iuss, aula 1-16

Durata : 10 ore