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I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Linguistics at Newcastle University, where I’m supervised by Profs Anders Holmberg and Maggie Tallerman for my thesis, Syntax Without Words.

I began the project by asking how Minimalist syntax could best account for the evolutionary origins of language and I was led to unpick some long-standing assumptions of generative theory while wanting nonetheless to maintain its foundations.

In particular, in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax, Chomsky introduced the now standard T-model, in which syntax generates both the hierarchical structure and compositional interpretation of a sentence in tandem. I argue from philosophical, biological and empirical evidence that this can't be true.

While I maintain that language somehow relies upon an innate generative module, I argue that it generates only compositional thoughts that have no necessary connection to language, with it likely existing in other species. Linguistic expressions meanwhile must be produced by a separate faculty as representations of compositional thoughts that only acquire compositional meaning through discourse pragmatics. / @callumjhackett