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Next offered: Fall 2024


615:201, and one of (615:305, 615:315, 615:325)

Course Description

This course examines some of the many connections that exist between linguistics and cognitive science. The very beginning of the course will examine some of the philosophical arguments that led to the development of cognitive science, in particular arguments from the nature of language phenomena. The next part of the course is an introduction to the theory of formal languages and automata; this section will illustrate how the search for a psychological basis for linguistic phenomena ultimately had a great influence on the development of theoretical computer science. That will be followed by an examination of the relationships between computational approaches to parsing and experimental studies of human sentence processing. The course will also include an introduction to speech errors, and the way in which they provide independent support for the representations used in linguistic theories. Some basic connectionist/neural network models will be studied, in particular models of lexical access. The final part of the course will examine how efforts to reconcile symbolic and connectionist approaches to language unexpectedly resulted in a powerful new approach to linguistic theory, Optimality Theory.

Throughout the course, an emphasis will be placed on the ways in which ideas from different traditional disciplines interact and work together. The course will demonstrate both how ideas from different traditional disciplines combine to create what is known as cognitive science, and how the effort to conduct interdisciplinary cognitive science can have a strong impact on the original disciplines themselves.

Learning Goals

By the end of this class, students should:

  • Understand the basic nature of Cognitive Science.
  • Understand key relationships between Linguistics and other cognitive disciplines.
  • Appreciate the ways in which different academic disciplines can influence each other, and can combine to provide greater insight into major issues.
  • Have an introductory grasp of several formal tools relevant to Linguistics and Cognitive Science.

Example Syllabus

Fall 2022 (this was an in-person course)