Events

Distinguished syntactician David Adger, Professor of Linguistics at Queen Mary, University of London, is giving a series of three lectures, generously supported by Dave Baggett.

This final lecture turns to a simplification of the structure building operation Merge itself. In Borges' short story, Funes the Memorious, the protagonist has such a prodigious memory that every moment's existence of every object is distinct to him, and generalization becomes impossible. It is the limits on our memory that make abstraction available. Taking a lesson from this, I propose a theory of Merge with radically limited memory. I propose to bifurcate what is classically termed the Workspace, in Minimalist Syntax, into two memory domains, mimicking the separation of computer CPU memory into a cache-register structure. The cache contains the resources necessary for a derivation, and, once a computation has halted, it is the single element in the cache that is submitted to interpretation by systems of meaning and externalization. However Merge does not apply in the cache; rather elements are moved from the cache to a register, which is binary in structure, and Merge operates on the contents of this register, returning the contents to the cache when completed. This allows the recursive step of Merge to just be a general grouping operation, with binarity being a result of the architecture of the memory structure of the system, rather than stipulated in the operation itself. I also show how such a system rules out Parallel Merge and Late Merge, removing the theoretical motivation for such operations that usually figures in their justification.