Mathematics, grammars... and babies?!

Heriot-Watt University (James Watt Centre 2), Edinburgh, EH14 4AS 2nd Oct 5.30pm-6.30pm Free (registration required on

`Colourless green ideas sleep furiously.' Before you judge the author of this nonsense, notice that it is at least a grammatically correct sentence. In fact, it is a famous sentence due to the linguist Noam Chomsky, who investigated the principles from which spoken languages develop. While trying to come up with a theory to explain how babies learn to form sentences, Chomsky defined grammars. Similar to grammar learned in school, Chomsky's grammars are sets of rules about how to construct sentences.

In this talk, we will investigate to what extent Chomsky succeeded in determining why some sentences are correct while others are not. More importantly, the talk will also reveal how these grammars turned out to have unexpected applications in mathematics and computer science.

Dr. Laura Ciobanu is Associate Professor at Heriot-Watt University.

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