Generative Capacity and the Linguistic Swampland


A central concern of linguistic theory is determining necessary and sufficient conditions on the generative capacity of the grammars/functions which account for linguistic phenomena. Prior work shows that while the landscape of possible functions is vast, the range of “things linguistic” is tightly constrained. In this talk I will review some recent mathematical work describing (1) conditions on the generative capacity of phenomena independent of a particular framework, using techniques from mathematical logic, and (2) classifying different linguistic theories with respect to these mathematical conditions. The key lesson is that many linguistic theories lie in what I call the “swampland”, a vast area where the capacity of the theories does not obey these constraints, even if the theories are themselves internally consistent-looking.

Jun 23, 2022 2:00 PM
LINGUAE Seminar Lecture
Department d’Etudes Cognitives, Ecole Normale Superieure
Jon Rawski
Jon Rawski
Assistant Professor

I am a researcher working at the interface of mathematics, linguistics, cognitive science, and algorithmic learning theory.