The Harmonic Mind

The mind can be characterized formally as the higher-level description of an underlying neural network. Certain networks computer representations that maximize a well-formedness metric, the Harmony function. The neural representations in such networks are structured so that, at a higher level of description, they form symbolic linguistic representations. Then the Harmony function becomes a kind of grammar: a
metric of well-formedness of linguistic structures. Regarding grammars as systems optimizing Harmony yields new grammar formalisms: Harmonic Grammar (Legendre, Miyata, & Smolensky 1990) and Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1991). These grammatical formalisms enable grammatical theory to progress in its own terms, and to more readily serve as the basis for theories of the acquisition and processing of language, and the neural and genomic encoding of linguistic knowledge.