‘But, for my own part, it was Greek to me…’: The Impossibility of Language

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18:30 to 20:00
Belfast campus

Conor Lecture Theatre
Corporate Events Office
Contact details
+44 (0)28 9036 6272

Raffaella Folli, Professor in Linguistics, will present as part of the Civic Lecture Series her Inaugural Professorial Lecture.

Many people will have felt a sense of impossibility when faced with the task of learning a foreign language, but, with time and dedication, have eventually succeeded in doing so. But what about learning our native language, a process that seems so natural and seamless and on which we reflect so little? Computational modelling would suggest that acquiring language, any language, the most defining trait of being human, is so complex a task that it should be impossible: yet language is homogeneously learnt by all children, at a stage when learning the steps required to tie shoes is too difficult.   How can that be the case?  What is language, this most impossible, most natural, most defining thing?  The task of addressing that core question is the vocation of the linguist.


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