2009-2010 University Distinguished Lecture Series

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    Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity: A History, 1789-2007
    (Ohio State University, 2010-05-11) Findley, Carter V.
    Turkey, Islam, Nationalism, and Modernity: A History, 1789-2007, reexamines the transition from Ottoman Empire to nation-state. Ottomans and Turks, Findley argues, triangulated over time among three reference points: Islam, nationalism, and modernity. Choices among these reference points gave rise to two strategies for engaging with modernity: a radical, secularizing current of change and a conservative, Islamically committed current. As competing alternatives oscillated before them, most people resisted choosing. With time, however, the recurrent crises punctuating the transition from empire to nation-state sharpened the differentiation of the two currents and forced choices. The radical current arose with the formation of new civil and military elites and the advent of "print capitalism," symbolized by the emergence in 1860 of privately owned, Turkish-language newspapers. The radicals engineered the 1908 Young Turk revolution and ruled empire and republic until 1950. They made secularism into a lasting "belief system" and still retain powerful positions. The conservative current arose with a series of Islamic renewal movements. Most influential were the movements launched by Mevlana Halid (Shaykh Khalid al-Naqshbandi, 1776-1827), Said Nursi (1873-1960), and Fethullah Gülen (1938- ). Powerful under the empire, Islamic conservatives did not again control the government until the 1980s. By then they, too, had created their own powerful print and electronic media. Although the radical movement has been studied extensively, the conservative one has been less so, and the interaction between the two has not. This book differs sharply from earlier histories that saw a linear evolution from religion and autocracy toward secularism and nationhood. Findley sees instead a dialectical interaction between two powerful forces that alternately clashed and converged to shape late Ottoman and modern Turkish history. From sultans and saints to singers and sinners, the profuse illustrations reinforce the argument by documenting both sides of this dialectic.
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    Grammar and Complexity: Language at the Intersection of Competence and Performance
    (Ohio State University, 2010-03-03) Culicover, Peter W.
    Human languages show very robust and regular patterns, which typically are described in terms of very general grammatical rules. Some grammatical patterns are found in language after language, and it is widely believed that they reflect the universal human cognitive capacity for language. At the same time, there is considerable variability across languages, and considerable idiosyncrasy, consisting of sub-regularities, exceptions and specialized constructions within any individual language. This talk focuses on two questions: How is it that languages show such regular patterns, given that there is so much idiosyncrasy? How is it that languages show so much idiosyncrasy and variability, given that there is such regularity? The beginnings of answers to these questions can be found if we go beyond the conventional idealization of grammar, which abstracts away from the fact that language is acquired by learners in the course of time, that it occurs within the social context in which people interact and communicate, and that it is processed in real time by people in the course of speaking and understanding. I suggest that there are many natural language phenomena whose properties can be understood best in terms of two domains of complexity: (i) linguistic competence, in which the regularity and the idiosyncrasy are part of the basic architecture, and (ii) constraints on linguistic processing, which yield patterns that appear to have to do with the grammar, but, I argue, do not. To illustrate, I discuss the idiosyncrasies of an English focus construction, the complexity of competence as a factor in grammatical change, and the complexity of processing certain well-studied grammatical dependencies involving interrogative expressions.