LING 394 - Topics in Linguistics
Section: 001 Language and Mind
Term: FA 2008
Subject: Linguistics (LING)
Department: LSA Linguistics
Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
LING 111 or 210.
May be elected twice for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

Language, Cognition and Human Experience explores different aspects of human language cognition, especially regarding knowledge of structure and interpretation, and how they relate to human language acquisition, language processing, language change and innovation. One focus is on linguistics as a branch of cognitive science.

The questions we will consider include: What aspects of language cognition and linguistic experience allow children to learn at an amazing speed the many complex aspects of their language? (e.g., by age three children have mastered most of the core properties of their native language, including aspects that involve variation across languages). What do we do in order to understand so successfully what we hear or read, to the point that we can be misled by our own processing choices (something humor often explores: “I shot an elephant in my pajamas… How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know”)? How does one account for the widespread variation found across languages, regarding the representation of structure and meaning? To illustrate this in a very simple way, a sentence like ‘He saw us’ requires that both he and us be pronounced in English, different from many languages of the world in which either or both pronouns can be absent). How does this sort of variation arise, and how does human linguistic knowledge so often yield language change, that is, gives rise to innovating grammars by new generations? In the absence of linguistic input from native speakers, how do children proceed in order to acquire a native language?

We will explore aspects of the acquisition, processing and language change and variation by considering in more detail phenomena in syntax and semantics, such as the structure and interpretation of inflection, tense, null subjects, interrogatives, passives and related structures; the debate on the interaction between nature and nurture; the emergence of new languages (e.g. creoles and sign languages).

The course is directed to students who are interested in understanding and exploring how linguistic structure and interpretation interact and relate to other aspects of human language cognition.

Although there are no official prerequisites, students will benefit better from the course if they have taken at least one course in linguistics. This course counts toward Applied Linguistics certificate.

LING 394 - Topics in Linguistics
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
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