Institut Jean Nicod

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Jean-Nicod Prize & Lectures 2003



Mental Structures:
Language, Society, Consciousness

(Lectures in english)

The overall theme of these lectures is the virtue of studying the function of the brain in terms of formal structures that it can be said to compute. This procedure is well established in linguistics but not in other domains of cognitive neuroscience.



Monday March, 24th, 5pm
CNRS, salle Frédéric Joliot, 3 rue Michel-Ange, 75016 Paris. Conscious and Unconscious Aspects of Language Structure

There has been a great of recent discussion of the "neural correlates of consciousness." Here I address the "functional correlates of consciousness" the formal structures that are relevant to awareness. I will look specifically at verbal awareness and verbal imagery, in the context of a fleshed out theory of linguistic structure the one mental domain where such a theory exists. A number of striking conclusions emerge that (a) contravene many of the popular theories of consciousness, (b) clarify the role of working memory and attention in consciousness, and (c) show how language enhances thought.

Ray Jackendoff will be awarded the Jean-Nicod Prize after the lecture.

Thursday March, 27th 2 - 4 pm
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris
Reintegrating Generative Grammar

In the 1960s, generative grammar was the hot topic among psychologists, philosophers, and anthropologists as well as linguists, but it lost its cachet within a few years. Some of this change was a matter of fashion; but some of it, I will argue, was a consequence of a basic mistake in the technology of generative grammar: viewing syntax as the sole source of combinatorial power in language. A correct account of language recognizes phonology, syntax, and semantics as independent parallel generative capacities, which interact through interface components. This architecture permits a better integration of the subfields of linguistics and a better integration of theoretical linguistics with the rest of cognitive neuroscience. It also permits a theory of meaning that can fulfill the hopes vainly pinned on Deep Structure 35 years ago.

Monday March, 31st 2 - 4 pm
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris
An Agenda for Studying Social Cognition

Besides language, another domain of human activity where there is wide variation is social-cultural cognition. The predominant views have it that our knowledge of society and culture is all learned from the environment; yet there is rarely consideration of exactly what an enculturated individual has learned. This question parallels quite closely the question of what a speaker of a language has learned, and many of the arguments about language structure and language learning find parallels in social-cultural cognition. The content of the knowledge, of course, is quite different social-cultural knowledge finds a home within the domain of conceptual structure (which is also the domain of linguistic meaning). I will talk about some central issues in this domain such as group membership and morality, and will mention some of the sensitive political issues that such inquiry inevitably encounters.

Thursday April, 3rd 2 - 4 pm
EHESS, salle 524, 54 boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris4. Experiencer Predicates, Theory of Mind, and Subjective vs. Objective Valuation

Part of achieving a theory of social-cultural cognition is a formal theory of social-cultural knowledge the counterpart of the formal grammar of a language. This lecture explores one corner of this knowledge, going into it through the lexical semantics of verbs of perception and evaluation. Along the way there emerge primitives of conceptual structure that are fundamental to articulating the naive Theory of Mind and the notion of value, setting the stage for an exploration of the formal structure of moral and economic value.


Published lectures: Language, Consciousness, Culture. Essays on Mental Structure. MIT Press, 2009.

Centre national de la recherche scientifique
(département des sciences de l’homme et de la société)

Ministère de la Recherche (ACI Cognitique)
Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales
Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme