This course is part of the programme
Master's Degree Programme Humanities Studies

Objectives and competences

The main objective is to give students an overview of biolinguistics, a new way of looking at the foundations of language faculty that relates biology and linguistics. Present the main claims of biolinguistics and the theory of evolution.


This course is linked to other linguistic courses in the program. Prerequisites to take this course are the mandatory courses from the first year, which give students the necessary theoretical background.


Modern linguistics is based on the idea that our language faculty is encoded in our brain. The capacity to acquire a language is thus biologically determined. In recent years many human genes were discovered which turned out to be important for the development of human language faculty. As part of this course we will review the properties of language that can be reduced to biological properties. As part of this course we’ll also review the core biological mechanisms that could play a role in shaping the human language faculty.

Intended learning outcomes

Students learn about the core ideas behind biolinguistics. They are capable to read and evaluate biolinguistic papers and have a rough idea of the direction biolinguistics is going. This is not an experimental course, but the content of the course should provide excellent background for various experimental approaches to the study of language, which is the topic of various other courses.


  • Chomsky, Noam. 2004. Biolinguistics and the Human Capacity. Predavanje v okviru MTA, Budimpešta, May 17. E-version
  • Lenneberg, Eric. 1967. Biological Foundations of Language. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. E-version
  • Boeckx, Cedric and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (v tisku) Language as a natural object, linguistics as a natural science.
  • Soschen, Alona. 2006. Natural Law: The Dynamics of Syntactic Representations in the Minimalist Program. DEAL. Linguistics in Potsdam 25. E-version
  • Poeppel, David; Embick, David. 2005. "Defining the Relation Between Linguistics and Neuroscience". In Anne Cutler. Twenty-First Century Psycholinguistics: Four Cornerstones. Lawrence Erlbaum Catalogue


Final exam and an in-class presentation. Successful presentation is mandatory to take the final exam.

Seminar paper 60 %.
Written exam 40 %.

Lecturer's references

Prof. Dr. Franc Marušič is a lecturer in Linguistics at the School of Humanities, University of Nova Gorica.

ALMOAMMER, Alhanouf, SULLIVAN, Jessica, DONLAN, Chris, MARUŠIČ, Franc, ŽAUCER, Rok, O'DONNELL, Timothy, BARNER, David. Grammatical morphology as a source of early number word meanings. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, ISSN 0027-8424, Nov. 2013, vol. 110, no. 46, str. 18448-18453, graf. prikazi., doi: 10.1073/pnas.1313652110. [COBISS.SI-ID 2935803]
MARUŠIČ, Franc, ŽAUCER, Rok. O določnem ta v pogovorni slovenščini (z navezavo na določno obliko pridevnika). Slavistična revija, ISSN 0350-6894. [Tiskana izd.], jan.-jun. 2007, letn. 55, št. 1/2, str. 223-247. [COBISS.SI-ID 700923]
MARUŠIČ, Franc. Some thoughts on phase extension to a single interface. Theoretical linguistics, ISSN 0301-4428, 2007, vol. 33, no. 1, str. 83-91. [COBISS.SI-ID 637947]
MARUŠIČ, Franc, ŽAUCER, Rok. On the intensional feel-like construction in Slovenian : a case of a phonologically null verb. Natural language and linguistic theory, ISSN 0167-806X, vol. 24, no. 4, str. 1093-1159. [COBISS.SI-ID 589563]
LARSON, Richard K., MARUŠIČ, Franc. On indefinite pronoun structures with APs : reply to Kishimoto. Linguistic inquiry, ISSN 0024-3892, 2004, vol. 35, no. 2, str. 268-287. [COBISS.SI-ID 472315]
MARUŠIČ, Franc, ŽAUCER, Rok. A note on sluicing and island repair. V: FRANKS, Steven (ur.). Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics : the Third Indiana Meeting 2012, (Michigan Slavic Materials, vol. 59). Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 2013, str. 176-189. [COBISS.SI-ID 2781435]
MARUŠIČ, Franc, NEVINS, Andrew. Two types of neuter : closest-conjunct agreement in the presence of '5 and ups'. V: BROWNE, Wayles (ur.). Annual Workshop on Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics, The Second Cornell Meeting 2009, (Michigan Slavic Materials, vol. 56). Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications, 2009 [i. e.] 2010, str. 301-317. [COBISS.SI-ID 1935867]
MARUŠIČ, Franc, ŽAUCER, Rok. Dual source for indefinite pronoun-adjective combinations. V: SCHARDL, Anisa (ur.), WALKOW, Martin (ur.), ABDURRAHMAN, Muhammad (ur.). NELS 38 : proceedings of the 38th Annual Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society, University of Ottawa, [October 26-28, 2007]. Amherst: GLSA, 2009, vol. 2, str. 135-147. [COBISS.SI-ID 1307899]
Franc Marušič, Andrew Nevins, in William Badecker. 2008. Experimental Approaches to the Study of Grammar: Agreement and Gender Resolution in Slovenian. Poster na the CUNY 2008 conference on human sentence processing. Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Franc Marušič, Andrew Nevins, in Bill Badecker (v tisku). The Grammars of Conjunction Agreement in Slovenian. Syntax
MARUŠIČ, Franc. Non-simultaneous spell-out in the clausal and nominal domain. V: GROHMANN, Kleanthes K. (ur.). Interphases : phase-theoretic investigations of linguistic interfaces. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009, str. 151-181. [COBISS.SI-ID 1078011]
MARUŠIČ, Franc. If non-simultaneous spell-out exists, this is what it can explain. V: BRUCART, José M. (ur.), GAVARRÓ, Anna (ur.), SOLÀ, Jaume (ur.). Merging features : computation, interpretation, and acquisition, (Oxford Linguistics). New York: Oxford University Press, cop. 2009, str. 175-193. [COBISS.SI-ID 1047035]