Im Mittelpunkt des "6. Leibniz-Kollegs" am 15. und 16. Mai in Potsdam steht der Hauptvortrag von Steven Pinker. Der experimentelle Psychologe vom renommierten "Massachusetts Institute of Technology" wird der Frage nach der Herkunft und dem Wesen unserer Sprache nachgehen und die "biologischen Sprachkompetenz" erläutern. In der ihm eigenen, fesselnden Art und Weise bringt Pinker den Zuhörern seine Vorstellungen von der menschlichen Sprache nahe. Dabei richtet er sich in seinem englischsprachigen Vortrag an die interessierte Öffentlichkeit und heißt insbesondere Schüler und Studenten herzlich willkommen. Eine Einführung in die Natur der Sprache geben Linguisten, Psychologen und Physiker der Universität Potsdam.
Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language
(Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT)
How does language work? What is the trick behind our ability to share so many different kinds of ideas, merely by making noise as we exhale? I suggest there is not one trick but two. Words are arbitrary pairings between a sound and a meaning, stored in memory. Rules combine words into sequences in which the meaning of the sequence can be computed from the meanings of the parts and the way they are arranged. Evidence for this hypothesis comes from a case in which words and rules express the same meaning but are psychologically, and perhaps even neurologically, distinct: irregular forms like bring-brought, which are memorized individually as if they were words, and regular forms like walk-walked, which are generated on the fly by rules. The prediction that regular forms are generated by rule whenever memory fails helps to make sense of many puzzles of language, such as where regular and irregular forms come from in the history of a language, how children learn their mother tongue, where language resides in the brain, how languages differ and what they have in common, why a batter is said to have flied out to center field, why the team in Toronto is called the Maple Leafs, and why no one really seems to know the plural of Walkman.