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Interfaces in Linguistic Theory

John Saeed, Ailbhe Ní Chasaide, Jeff Kallen, Martine Smith, Irene Walsh, Elaine Uí Dhonnchadha, Brian Nolan, Breffni O’Rourke, Lorraine Leeson

A theory of linguistic knowledge is crucial to research across the School. Contemporary linguistic theory seeks not only to develop models that can characterize all human languages but those that are constrained enough to account for what linguistic systems are possible.

A particular research focus is the modularity of linguistic knowledge and the interfaces between the different linguistic modules, both in normal language processing and in language breakdown, for example in aphasia.

An important research strand in the School is the theoretical analysis of the interface between syntax on the one hand and semantics and pragmatics on the other.  On the syntax/semantics interface the interest has been in verbal argument structure, for example the grammatical processes of causatives, passive and other voice constructions. On the syntax/pragmatics interface research is continuing on information structure: the study of focus, topic, new and given information. 

Explorations of the phonetics/phonology interface are also ongoing in the context of ongoing research on intonation, where the realisation of focus and de-accentuation is an emerging theme. Future research might link these strands, and could in principle be extended to examining how functions such as focus are coded in sign language.

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