Click for Sample Lecture
(The first two interjections are by Stuart Kauffman and Terry Deacon)


Executive Summary


Course objectives: When students have completed this course, they will:

  • Understand the essentials of linguistics theories.
  • Understand the classical theory of gene expression and the challenge emerging from evo-devo (evolutionary developmental biology), among other areas.
  • Understand the relationship between code and context in biological and human-made systems.

Weeks 1 and 2: Gene expression; The work of Avery, Schrodinger, Pauling, Franklin and Crick in determining the structure of DNA. Jacob, Monod, and the existence of regulatory genes. Alternative splicing, metabolic context, and other issues suggestive of fruitful links with linguistic theory.

Weeks 3 and 4: Classical linguistic and semiotic theory. Saussure, Peirce, and the emergence of the field of semiotics. Generative Grammar. Outline of alternative formalisms; Categorial grammar, lexical-functional grammar, HPSG, functional-unification grammar, and so on. Compositional semantics.

Weeks 5 and 6: Evolutionary developmental biology. The discovery of hox genes, the homeobox, and the consequences for evolutionary theory. Hox genes and chemical gradient; the notion of a genetic “toolkit”. Organism-environment coupling the work of Kaufmann and others in considering the system at the “edge of chaos”

Weeks 7 and 8: Code and context. Apoptosis, sugar, and sequence code. Sign, meaning, and interpretant/adapter. Organic “information” and “meaning”. Parallels between gene expression and NL production: the lexicon, syntax, semantics, and “context” in each case.

Weeks 9 and 10: Student presentations. Methods of Instruction While the instructor will prepare a detailed presentation for each topic, the students will be encouraged to debate the topics vigorously in class and through bulletin boards, and work together to give presentations.

© 2010, 2011, 2016 Seán Ó Nualláin


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