Join the Cognitive Sci Program on 4/22 for our next Colloquium!

Image of Hady Ba

Speaker: Dr. Hady Ba, Associate-Professor of Philosophy at Cheikh Anta Diop University, Visiting Fullbright Scholar  

Time & Location: 4pm, Friday, April 22, 2022 in Oak 117. Light refreshments will be provided. 

Talk TitleApe Linguistics and the Chomsky/Norvig debate 

AbstractAccording to Chomsky, statistical models of language, even though pragmatically successful can’t teach us anything about the nature of language which is rule based. Norvig disagree. According to him science goes from accumulation of data to explanation and back. In this talk, I’ll first show that despite advances in the statistical treatment of language, what happens is that the most successful algorithms for translation, completion and dialogue seem to mimic our brains treatment of language but have some limitations that we don’t know yet how to get rid of. Does this mean that we need better linguistic theories to get to the next step? To respond to this question, I will use data from animal linguistic cognition. I’ll argue that our experiments in teaching language to monkeys and the use by some researchers of tools from linguistics to analyze natural communicative production of apes show that there is a very specific, probably innate, component in humans’ ability to not only produce but also understand language. I will argue that contrary to what Chomsky think, this component goes beyond universal grammar and is probably due to the very peculiar nature of human sociability.  

Bio: An Associate-Professor of Philosophy at Cheikh Anta Diop University, Hady BA is a Fulbright Scholar from Senegal. He holds a PhD in Cognitive Science from The Jean Nicod Institute in Paris. Before coming back to Dakar, Hady Ba has worked on the development of Natural Language Processing tools that uses open-source resources like the web to detect and anticipate security threats. He’s currently writing a book on the epistemology of the Global South and has an ongoing project on animal cognition comparing human and non-human cognition.  

Meeting opportunities: Dr. Ba will be available during the day of his talk for individual or small-group meetings on Zoom or in-person. Please contact Crystal at if you are interested.