Chomsky, grammars and mathematics

Laura Ciobanu

Heriot-Watt University
Barton Lectures in Computational Mathematics


Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: Zoom

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously. Before you judge this as 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, and similar to the 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.

**e-mail for Zoom link**