2008-09 Catalog

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Program Description

Language and Mind

Revised Last Updated: 09/18/2008

Spring quarter

Faculty: David Paulsen cognitive science, philosophy of mind, Rachel Hastings linguistics, mathematics

Major areas of study include cognitive science, linguistics, philosophy of language and mind, and writing.

Class Standing: This all-level program accepts up to 25% freshmen as well as supporting and encouraging those ready for advanced work.

Prerequisites: Background in biology, linguistics or psychology and proficiency with algebra.

What features of the human mind are revealed through our ability to speak and understand language? How are children able to develop a detailed and abstract understanding of their native language at a very young age? In this program we will study theories of cognition, brain structure and consciousness as they relate to the complex phenomena of language acquisition and use. To understand the nature of linguistic processing we will look at the structure of language and ask what capacities must be present within human cognition in order for us to produce and understand human language, as well as its relationship to communication in other animals.

As part of our study we will ask how much of our knowledge of language can be attributed to an innate language capacity and how much is dependent on individual experience. We will study the ideas of Noam Chomsky and others who argue for a "universal grammar" as an explanation of rapid language acquisition and similarity among languages. We will compare theories of generative grammar (which focuses on structural properties specific to language) with ideas from within cognitive linguistics (which focuses more on the relationship between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive capacities). Our theoretical studies will be informed by data emerging from current research on language acquisition and language impairment, including work on the neurobiology of language.

Program activities will include seminar, lectures and workshops. We will discuss fundamental questions about consciousness and the relationship between mind and brain as we read both scientific and philosophical studies of the nature of cognition in relationship to the human capacity for language.

Credits: 16 per quarter

Enrollment: 48

Books: www.tescbookstore.com

Program is preparatory for careers and future studies in linguistics, cognitive science, philosophy and cognitive neuroscience, and education.

Planning Units: Programs for Freshmen, Scientific Inquiry

Program Revisions

Date Revision
September 18th, 2008 Correction made to list Rachel Hastings as faculty