In a move that is certain to reinvigorate faith in the Chomskyan paradigm, a controversial set of experiments recently performed at the Shoreham Institute for Linguistic Inquiry (SILI) were reported yesterday. SILI announced that it has identified the neurobiological echo of certain syntactic constructs central to Chomsky’s theories of language. Many in the syntax community have looked on with furrowed middlebrows as the adherents of Chomsky bang on about empty categories, traces of wh-movement, big PRO and little pro and transformations of various kinds, but these doubts seem now to have been laid to rest by empirical observation of these processes at work.
Professor Peter Petronius Petrovich, Principal of St Petersville College, and PI on the project, gave a confident report in his office on the methods used and results obtained at yesterday’s press conference. Informants were given propositions with ditransitive verbal predicates such as ‘Susan gave Robert a big fat kiss’ and ‘Letitia handed Samuel a posset of honey’ before being asked to form various wh- questions from the prompts. Researchers used specially designed magnifying glasses with syntactic tech enhancement called ‘syntactictechs’ to scrutinise brain activity while the questions were formed. The syntactictechs revealed that, as per transformational grammar theoretic predictions, nominal arguments did actually move from certain regions of the brain to others while the informants were undertaking the task.
“To our surprise, it was actually possible to see the second object move from the right hemisphere through the amygdala and across the hippocampus before relocating in the left hemisphere,” screamed Professor Petrovich. “Moreover, as predicted by the Transformational Grammar, an actual trace in the form of the Latin letter t with a subscript i was visible in the region vacated by the nominal argument. When it came to grammatical function–
Petrovich went on, almost wistfully