• Books in question:
    • The Boundaries of Babel (The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages) by Andrea Moro (2008) (PDF)
    • Impossible Languages by Andrea Moro (2016) (PDF)

Glossary:

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
universal grammar
    Arguments for:
    - Convergence

neurobiological correlates
    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/boundaries-babel

constructive vs selective grammar
    We will distinguish between selective
    grammars and constructive grammars
    following the spirit of the classical
    terminological distinction that Massimo
    Piattelli-Palmarini (1989) originally
    introduced into linguistics from biology.

    In textbooks, you will never find the
    rules that eliminate the impossible
    combinations of words (selective
    grammars).

    You only find the rules that describe the
    possible combinations (constructive
    grammars), and among these rules, you are
    likely to find just those that lead to
    ‘‘proper’’ language rather than actual
    spoken language.

    The Boundaries of Babel_ The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages (2008, The MIT Press) - libgen.lc.pdf

impossible language
     The human mind, despite its almost
     infinite ingenuity, can't invent a
     language that doesn't share the
     fundamental properties of language
     itself.

    - the conditions of possibility of language.
    - the mystery of human communication
    - studies of syntax with neurology

    https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/impossible-languages

The Boundaries of Babel

Preface

Tantan A man nicknamed Tantan because he would always reply to questions asked of him by saying “tan tan”.

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
The doctor who conducted the autopsy found a
rammollisement (softening) of Leborgne’s left
frontal lobe; this discovery was immediately
recognized by the physician as evi- dence that
language not only depended on brain activity,
but on a specific portion of the brain.

The name of the doctor who per- formed the
autopsy was Paul Broca, and this portion of
the brain was subsequently named Broca’s area.

Christopher

A boy who had brain damage as a baby, but after the age of 3 was a genuis with languages, able to pick them up spontaneously.

But when introduced to languages which deliberately violated an understand of the Universal Grammar, found them impossible to learn.

 1
 2
 3
 4
 5
 6
 7
 8
 9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
Six weeks after his birth, he was diagnosed
with brain damage that would have major
consequences for the rest of his life.

He learned to speak and walk late, but from
the age of three on he had a burning passion
for books.

Unlike most children, he did not favor illus-
trated books or fairy tales.

He liked reading dictionaries, phone books,
and books illustrating the flags and
currencies of the world.

His parents were left astonished when they
realized, that, around the age of three,
Christopher was already able to read the
advertisements printed in local newspapers.

Even more strange, he could read them,
irrespective of their position: upside down,
right side up, or sideways.

A next remarkable step in Christopher's
development occurred when he first encountered
techni- cal papers written in foreign
languages.

From that moment on, learning foreign
languages became his absolute passion.

Any occasion was good for learning a new
language, which among other things, made him
lo- cally famous.

Christopher's talent was exceptional-for
instance, it was enough for him to hear his
brother-in-law speak Polish for him to learn
it.

Impossible Languages

  • Chapters read:
    • 1 Learning From The Impossible
    • 2 Capturing The “stem Mind”
    • 3 Sentences As Snowflakes
    • 4 The Unreasonable Sieve