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Public Talk: Do languages 'really' exist?

Date & Time:
January 17, 2019 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
BI 561
Robert Stainton, University of Western Ontario

About the Talk: This accessible presentation centers around a seemingly absurd question: ‘Do languages really exist?’ Though the answer seems perfectly apparent, recall that until very recently it seemed obvious that genders and races “really existed”. What’s more, many influential linguists and philosophers have recently provided plausible grounds for answering ‘No’. The aim of the talk is not to answer the question, but rather to consider i) what exactly is at issue (in particular, what is meant by ‘languages’ and ‘really exist’) and ii) why it matters, academically and socially, whether the skeptics are right.    

About the Speaker: Robert Stainton was introduced to Philosophy and Linguistics at York University's Glendon College. Graduating from there in 1988, he pursued doctoral studies in both areas at MIT, where he worked under Sylvain Bromberger, Noam Chomsky and James Higginbotham. In 1993, fresh out of graduate school, he took up his first academic position at Ottawa's Carleton University, where he eventually became Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science. He has been at The University of Western Ontario since 2004, where he is presently Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy. In 2012 he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

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