Andrea Moro

Andrea Carlo Moro (born July 24, 1962) is an Italian linguist and neuroscientist.

He is currently full professor of general linguistics at the Institute for Advanced Study IUSS Pavia, Italy, director of NeTS and head of the Humanities. His main fields of research are syntax and neurolinguistics. His has pursued at least two distinct lines of research: the theory of syntax and the neurological correlates of syntax with the brain. For the first field, see the critical comments in Graffi (2000), Hale - Keyser (2003), Kayne (2011), Richards (2010) and Chomsky (2013) among others. As for a critical evaluation of the second field see in particular the first chapter of Kandel et al. (2013); see also Kaan, 2002, Marcus 2003 and Newmeyer (2005). By referring to these sources, one can synthetically outline Andrea Moro's work in the two fields as follows.

In the first field, he contributed to the theory of clause structure (in particular with respect to the theory of the copula discovering inverse copular constructions, to the notion of expletive proposing that an element like "there" and its equivalent across languages is a raised expletive predicate rather than an inserted expletive subject, and to the theory of syntactic movement (by proposing a weak version of the theory of antisymmetry, i.e. dynamic antisymmetry) according to which movement is the effect of a symmetry-breaking process in the computational system that underlies syntax. As for the first topic the original reference is the volume "The Raising of Predicates" (Cambridge University Press) - chapter 1 and 2, in particular - which has received more than 500 citations, according to Google Scholar; as for the second, instead, the original reference is the monograph "Dynamic Antisymmetry" (MIT Press) which has received more than 250 references, again according to Google Scholar.

As for the other field, he explored the neurological correlates of artificial languages which do not follow the principles of Universal Grammar providing evidence that Universal Grammar properties cannot be cultural, social or conventional artifacts: in fact, he and the team of people he worked with showed that recursive syntactic rules, that is rules based on recursion selectively activate a neurological network (including Broca's area) whereas non-recursive syntactic rules do not. These discoveries have appeared in a few international Journals, including, for example, Nature Neuroscience (Musso, Moro et al. 2003) or PNAS (Moro 2010): a comprehensive collection of the works in both fields has now become available in the "Routledge Leading Linguist Series" as "The Equilibrium of Human Syntax" (Routledge 2013) Moro 2013. He also explored the correlates between the representation of the world in the brain and the structure of syntax, specifically the relationship between sentential negation and the brain) also available in Moro 2013. In recent papers he took position against the idea that the sequence of human actions can be described as having the same structure as the sequence of words in a well-formed syntactic structure; see Moro 2014.. Furthermore, Moro pursued the study of the relationship between the brain and language by exploiting electrophysiological measure. The core of the experiment - done in a team with neurosurgeons and electric engineers - consists in comparing the shape of the electric waves of non-acoustic language areas (typically, Broca's area) with the shape of the corresponding sound waves. The result was that not only the shape of the two different waves correlate but they do so also in absence of sound production, that is during inner speech activity, opening the possibility to reading linguistic expression from direct measure of the cortex and skipping the actual utterance of the sentence Magrassi et al. 2015. For a non technical synthesis of these discoveries and a critical discussion see Moro 2016

Selected bibliography


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