The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Norvin Richards’ Contiguity Theory on MIT News

Norvin Richard’s recently published Contiguity Theory was featured on MIT News!

But exactly why do languages differ in this way? Linguists who study syntax have catalogued myriad distinguishing rules and patterns among world languages — without necessarily explaining why such differences exist. But now Richards has a new explanation, detailed in his book, “Contiguity Theory,” recently published by the MIT Press. The answer, Richards claims, is sound. That is, the sounds of languages have hugely influenced their syntax. To a greater degree than has been the case, Richards believes, we need to integrate phonology — the study of sound in language — with syntax. Then we can better grasp why languages have their specific rules. “The claim I’m making in this book is that our explanations should start with a careful explanation of the phonology and morphology,” Richards says. When studying syntax, he says, “We’ve been missing the deepest level of explanation by insisting that we not pay attention to morphology and phonology.”


You can read the full article here.