Keynote Speaker: Willem J.M. Levelt
Chair: Peter Hagoort

Wednesday, August 27, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, Effectenbeurszaal

Willem Levelt

Willem Levelt is director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, which he founded in 1980. His books include On binocular rivalry (1965, 1968), Formal grammars in linguistics and psycholinguistics (1974, 2008), Speaking: From intention to articulation (1989) and A history of psycholinguistics – The pre-Chomskyan era (2013, 2014). He is a former president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of various academies, among them the National Academy of Sciences. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Maastricht, Antwerp, Padua and Louvain and is a member of the German Orden pour le mérite.

Localism versus holism. The historical origins of studying language in the brain.

“Show me the forces of the soul, and I will find the organ and the seat thereof”, Franz Joseph Gall wrote in 1818. Ever since, the issue of localism versus holism would remain a major controversy in the study of brain and language. I will discuss how this controversy developed from Gall’s beginnings through the first half of the 20th century. For the sake of exposition I will distinguish three phases in this theoretical history. During the first phase, from Gall to Broca, localizing the faculty of articulate speech became the litmus test for Gall’s general localistic theory. During the second phase of “diagram making”, since Wernicke and Lichtheim, networks of language functions were related to neural networks in the brain. During the third phase, since Marie’s “revolt against localism” of 1906/7, various attempts were made to “de-modularize” language and to relate this “intellectual function” to holistic brain action. However, their proponents (such as Head and Goldstein) did not manage to resolve the controversies.