Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

New from Oxford University Press!


Language Planning as a Sociolinguistic Experiment

By: Ernst Jahr

Provides richly detailed insight into the uniqueness of the Norwegian language development. Marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Norwegian nation following centuries of Danish rule

New from Cambridge University Press!


Acquiring Phonology: A Cross-Generational Case-Study

By Neil Smith

The study also highlights the constructs of current linguistic theory, arguing for distinctive features and the notion 'onset' and against some of the claims of Optimality Theory and Usage-based accounts.

New from Brill!


Language Production and Interpretation: Linguistics meets Cognition

By Henk Zeevat

The importance of Henk Zeevat's new monograph cannot be overstated. [...] I recommend it to anyone who combines interests in language, logic, and computation [...]. David Beaver, University of Texas at Austin

Book Information

Sun Image

Title: The Boundaries of Babel
Subtitle: The Brain and the Enigma of Impossible Languages
Series Title: Current Studies in Linguistics

In The Boundaries of Babel, Andrea Moro tells the story of an encounter
between two cultures: contemporary theoretical linguistics and the
cognitive neurosciences. The study of language within a biological context
has been ongoing for more than fifty years. The development of neuroimaging
technology offers new opportunities to enrich the "biolinguistic
perspective" and extend it beyond an abstract framework for inquiry. As a
leading theoretical linguist in the generative tradition and also a
cognitive scientist schooled in the new imaging technology, Moro is
uniquely equipped to explore this.

Moro examines what he calls the "hidden" revolution in contemporary
science: the discovery that the number of possible grammars is not infinite
and that their number is biologically limited. This radical but
little-discussed change in the way we look at language, he claims, will
require us to rethink not just the fundamentals of linguistics and
neurosciences but also our view of the human mind. Moro searches for
neurobiological correlates of "the boundaries of Babel"--the constraints on
the apparent chaotic variation in human languages--by using an original
experimental design based on artificial languages. He offers a critical
overview of some of the fundamental results from linguistics over the last
fifty years, in particular regarding syntax, then uses these essential
aspects of language to examine two neuroimaging experiments in which he
took part. He describes the two neuroimaging techniques used (positron
emission topography, or PET, and functional magnetic resonance imaging, or
fMRI), but makes it clear that techniques and machines do not provide
interesting data without a sound theoretical framework. Finally, he
discusses some speculative aspects of modern research in biolinguistics
regarding the impact of the linear structure of linguistics expression on
grammar, and more generally, some core aspects of language acquisition,
genetics, and evolution.

"Andrea Moro has gained a unique position in formulating and implementing
constructive approaches to… difficult and demanding tasks. He is able to
address them with a deep understanding of modern linguistics, a field to
which he has made a major contribution of his own, and mastery of the
relevant technology and its potential. His new book is a lucid introduction
to these exciting areas, superbly informed and imaginatively presented,
with intriguing implications well beyond biolinguistics... A rare
--Noam Chomsky, from the foreword

Publication Year: 2008
Publisher: MIT Press
Review: Read the review
BibTex: View BibTex record
Linguistic Field(s): Linguistic Theories
Cognitive Science
Issue: All announcements sent out by The LINGUIST List are emailed to our subscribers and archived with the Library of Congress.
Click here to see the original emailed issue.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0262134985
ISBN-13: 9780262134989
Pages: 257
Prices: U.S.$ 35.00