Logic List Mailing Archive

"Linguistic Perspectives on Numerical Expressions", Utrecht (The Netherlands; June 2004)

Linguistic Perspectives on Numerical Expressions
10 & 11 June 2004
Utrecht Institute of Linguistics-OTS
Utrecht University
The Netherlands


Gennaro Chierchia (Universita degli Studi di Milano)
James Hurford (University of Edinburgh)
Richard Kayne (New York University)
Heike Wiese (Humboldt University, Berlin)

Knowledge of language and knowledge of the number system are two cognitive
capacities that have been characterized as being genuinely human. A core
property which is shared by these two cognitive domains is that of
discrete infinity: just like the series of numbers goes on indefinitely
(you can always add one more), you can go on building linguistic
structures by adding new linguistic material to the already built
structure, as in John and Peter and Sue and Betty and .... This property
of discrete infinity accounts for the fact that there is no limit in
principle to how many words a sentence may contain. In Language and
Problems of Knowledge, Noam Chomsky speculates on the idea that the number
faculty developed as a by-product of the language faculty. He states that
we might think of the human number faculty as essentially an abstraction
from human language, preserving the mechanisms of discrete infinity and
eliminating the other special features of language. This thought-provoking
idea suggests a certain relationship between knowledge of language and
numerical knowledge. The general aim of the workshop is to further our
understanding of this relationship between the two cognitive systems. This
will be done by raising such general questions as: In what ways is our
knowledge of the number system expressed linguistically? That is, what
knowledge of language is at the basis of our linguistic expression of the
number system? And, what are the interface relations between the numerical
system and the language system? Answers to these questions should come
from different linguistic/cognitive perspectives (grammatical theory,
acquisition, mathematical cognition, et cetera).