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Seminar: Daniel Dor on the Instruction of Imagination: Rethinking the Universality of Linguistic Diversity

Australian National University, Evolution

Date: 18 August 2017

Seminar: The Instruction of Imagination: Rethinking the Universality of Linguistic Diversity

When: 9.30-11am, Friday 29th September

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building, ANU

Abstract: Theoretical conceptions of language typically occupy different positions on the axis of universality and variability. On the one hand, universalist theories find it very hard to incorporate the vast differences between languages as they attest themselves in empirical work, especially on small languages. On the other hand, theories that respect the facts of diversity find it as hard to give substance to the obvious fact of the universality of language as an essential human phenomenon.

In this talk, I will present the backbone of the general theory of language I develop in Dor (2015), and show how it re-frames the entire relationship between the universality of language and the diversity of languages. The theory characterizes language, the essential human phenomenon, as a socially-constructed communication technology, dedicated to the specific function of the instruction of imagination. From this characterization, emerges a rich set of absolute universals: everything that can be deduced from the essential characterization itself. Beyond that, the characterization releases the investigation of languages from the shackles of universality, allows for every language to be investigated in its own terms, and offers a new theoretical interpretation to the results accumulated in typological inquiry. 

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