The Parallel Architecture in Language and Elsewhere

Session Date: 
Mar 3, 2023

The Parallel Architecture is a theory of the mental representations (or “data structures”) involved in the language faculty. These representations are organized in three orthogonal dimensions or levels: phonology (sound structure), syntax (grammatical structure), and semantics (conceptual structure or meaning), correlated with each other through interface links. Words are encoded in all three levels and serve as part of the interface between sound and meaning. In the representation of an entire sentence, the words are spread out across the combinatoriality of the three levels.

An important requirement for a theory of language is that it must offer an account of how we can talk about what we see. It is proposed that conceptual structure in language interfaces with a level of spatial structure – the understanding of physical space – which in turn interfaces with visual, haptic, and proprioceptive perception, and with the planning of action. A word that denotes a spatial entity (such as cat) links to a representation in spatial structure. Thus the basic principles of the Parallel Architecture for language can be extended to major aspects of mental function.