Season kickoff: Martin Everaert & Riny Huybregts (Utrecht University)
Asking what exactly constitutes the capacity for human language has been (and still is) an important question ever since cartesian times. Generative linguistics has provided us with some significant answers (not always properly understood) that became increasingly abstract, abstracting from construction- and language-specific details: LAD (Aspects), UG (Principles and Parameters), Basic Property (Strong Minimalist Thesis). The conceptual, theoretical and empirical arguments involved are, we believe, a powerful and useful means for reaching better understanding of some of the core ingredients of human language. One fundamental design trait is the fundamental asymmetry in the mappings to the conceptual-intentional and sensory-motor systems at the interfaces. Rules of grammar are structure dependent: they rely exclusively on complexities of hierarchical structure and dismiss simplicities of linear order. Speech, however, depends on externalized language conforming to conditions on linear precedence and reflecting properties of sensorimotor modalities. Individual languages result from interactions between core and periphery (parameters eating at what is left over by the basic property of language). This “ancient” generative insight has important consequences for the study of language, its acquisition and use, and how language evolved in evolutionary time, and could be taken as fundamentally different from animal communication systems.