DCAL Speaker Series: Iris Berent (Northeastern University, USA)

Publication date: Apr 17, 2014 02:39 PM

Start: May 08, 2014 01:00 PM

Location: DCAL Library


Title

The Phonological Mind 

Abstract

Humans weave phonological patterns instinctively. We form phonological patterns at birth; like songbirds, we do so spontaneously, even in the absence of an adult model, and we impose phonological design not only on our natural linguistic communication but also on invented cultural technologies—reading and writing. Why are humans—young and mature—compelled to generate phonological patterns? And how can phonological patterns be intimately grounded in their sensorimotor channels (oral or manual) while remaining partly amodal, fully productive and abstract? In this talk, I suggest that the phonological grammar is a specialized algebraic system of core knowledge. It encompasses algebraic, grammatical constraints that are universal, but its adaptive design is shaped by phonetic triggers that operate in ontogeny and phylogeny.  I evaluate this hypothesis against domain-general associationist explanations in light of behavioral, neuroimaging and linguistic studies that gauge the design of the phonological mind across modalities (speech and sign) and its capacity for discrete infinity.​