Kenyon Branan, University of Göttingen & Andrew Ira Nevins, UCL

Ling J: How do we Investigate Modularity in the Language Faculty?

Different parts of language seem to make parallel reference to the same abstract principles --- notions of markedness, for instance, seem to operate both at the phonological level and the syntactic level, while notions of constituency above the word level, likewise, seem to matter both for the morphosyntax as well as the phonology. In this course we'll take these parallelisms as evidence for a guiding hypothesis --- termed "Cross-Modular Serial Parallelism" --- test the hypothesis, and try to understand what our course of inquiry of linguists should be if this hypothesis holds true. The underlying idea is that the language faculty --- and perhaps aspects of cognition outside of traditional focuses of generative linguistic inquiry --- involves a number of simple modules built up of invariant operative principles and module-specific elements that the operative principles manipulate. To this end we discuss a number of revelatory case studies involving striking mismatches between different submodules of the language faculty: mondegreens (where a predicted input is percieved over a percepted input), "mismarked emphasis" (where the emphasized constituent is distinct from the constituent marked for emphasis), "defective lexemes" (where well-formed words end up being unpronounceable), and "selective slots" (where certain positions in the sentence cannot, in a phonologically defined sense, be too big).