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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2004

T C 357 • Language: A Cognitive Science Approach

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39645 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
cal 221

Course Description

The course will deal with language from the inter-disciplinary point of view of Cognitive Science. In this approach we use evidence from linguistics, psychological experiments, clinical studies of patients with language disorders, neurological studies of the brain, and some computer modeling. The emphasis will be on language and the mind/brain, although we will also discuss some social and communication questions. We will begin with an overview of the study of language, and then discuss particular topics and issues in some detail, including the following: 1. Language and other abilities. Is language unique to humans? Does it represent a distinct sub-system of the mind/brain? How does it relate to intelligence and thinking? Is there an innate language faculty? 2. Language as a system: What do you know when you know a language? 3. How is language acquired? What is the logical problem of language acquisition? 4. Language and the brain: How and where is language realized in the brain? What patterns of difficulties arise when they break down (as in aphasia and other disorders)? What light do these patterns shed on how language works normally? 5. Language understanding and production – the processes that underlie language use.

About the professor: Carlota Smith is Centennial Professor in the Department of Linguistics. Her main interest is the interface between form and meaning: how different aspects of language relate to each other. She works on Navajo and Chinese, in addition to more familiar languages. Her book, Modes of Discourse, has just been published by Cambridge University Press.

Grading Policy

One research-type term paper of about 16 pages. Class presentation on the paper topic; two exams. Class discussion will be emphasized.


Readings will consist of articles and book chapters by different authors. There will be two required texts: 1) Language, edited Lila Gleitman and Mark Liberman. This is volume 1 in a current series, An Invitation to Cognitive Science, published by MIT Press. I contains articles on various topics by Steven Pinker,Willliam Labov, Mark Liberman, Howard Lasnik, Barbara Partee, and others. 2) A packet of other materials, complementing the selections in the text; predominantly articles on the study of language disorders and what they tell us about language and the mine.


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