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The syntax of texture and the texture of syntax

W. Tecumseh Fitch, Angela D. Friederici and Peter Hagoort, Eds., "Pattern perception and computational complexity",  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, July 2012: Humans around the world are fascinated by visual and auditory patterns, and the perception of complex iterative, hierarchical and recursive patterns, by humans and animals, has become an important research focus. […]

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The other shoe drops at Harvard

Carolyn Johnson, "Embattled Harvard psychology professor resigns", 7/19/2011: Marc Hauser, a well-known Harvard psychology professor who has been on leave since an internal investigation found him guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct, is leaving the university. “Marc Hauser has resigned his position as a faculty member, effective August 1, 2011,” Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal […]

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Delusions of gender

That's the title of Cordelia Fine's new book, due out on August 30. Some reviews: Katherine Bouton, "Peeling Away Theories on Gender and the Brain", NYT 8/23/2010; Robin McKie, "Male and female ability differences down to socialisation, not genetics", The Observer 8/15/2010; "Q&A: 'Delusions of Gender' author Cordelia Fine", USA Today 8/9/2010; Louise Grey, "New […]

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Gricean bagel rage

When Paul Grice drafted his maxims for cooperative conversation, he didn't have in mind that we should get upset when people violate them. On the contrary, the whole idea was to use apparent violations as the basis for reasoning about conversational implicatures, the things that people obviously mean but don't literally say. Still, people do […]

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More on the monkey business at Harvard

Nicholas Wade, "In Harvard Lab Inquiry, a Raid and a 3-Year Wait", NYT 8/13/2010, gives some additional information about the Marc Hauser scandal.  The new information is still basically rumor — the result of interviews with sources both anonymous and not, with the non-anonymous information being largely second hand. But it all suggests that whatever […]

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Monkey business?

Carolyn Y. Johnson, "Author on leave after Harvard inquiry", Boston Globe 8/10'/2010: Harvard University psychologist Marc Hauser — a well-known scientist and author of the book “Moral Minds’’ — is taking a year-long leave after a lengthy internal investigation found evidence of scientific misconduct in his laboratory. The findings have resulted in the retraction of […]

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"Chimps have tons to say but can't say it"

Nicholas Wade, "Deciphering the Chatter of Monkeys", NYT, 1/11/209, starts out with a Dr. Dolittle trope that may raise a red flag or two among those who are tired of facile anthropomorphizing in stories about animal communication: Walking through the Tai forest of Ivory Coast, Klaus Zuberbühler could hear the calls of the Diana monkeys, […]

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The texture of time: Even educated fleas do it

[Attention conservation notice: this post wanders a bit too far into the psycholinguistic weeds for some readers, who may prefer to turn directly to our comics pages.] In a recent paper, Ansgar D. Endressa and Marc D. Hauser document a puzzling result: Harvard undergraduates fail to recognize the regularities in "three-word sequences conforming to patterns […]

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Recognizing grammar (or door chime changes, or anything)

It has been two weeks now, and so far no one here at Language Log Plaza has commented on the BBC News story entitled "Monkeys recognize bad grammar." I suppose people are assuming that I cover the Stupid Animal Communication Stories desk. And often I have. But I have been procrastinating, because I am getting […]

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Dangling as promised?

Yesterday, Norm Geras spotted a lovely dangling modifier for the Fellowship of the Predicative Adjunct's collection. The source was an article by Tim Adams ("The town that made Margaret", The Guardian, 4/5/2009), which featured this second sentence: Now 83, and long gone from power, Britons remain fiercely divided over the reign of former Prime Minister […]

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Musical protolanguage: Darwin's theory of language evolution revisited

A guest post by W. Tecumseh Fitch, on the Occasion of Charles Darwin's 200th Birthday.

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Everett on the Pirahã in The Guardian

The Guardian interviewed Dan Everett while he was in the UK recently for lectures in Edinburgh and London, and has published a piece about Dan and the Pirahã. The Language Log fan who was the first to point it out to us (thanks, Rachele) asks about its example of recursion. It says: Chomsky … recently […]

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