AJ12082 Language, mind, and human nature: An introduction to linguistics in cognitive science

Faculty of Arts
Autumn 2019
Extent and Intensity
0/2/0. 2 credit(s) (plus 2 credits for an exam). Recommended Type of Completion: zk (examination). Other types of completion: z (credit).
dr. Mihailo Antovic (lecturer), Mgr. Jana Pelclová, Ph.D. (deputy)
Mgr. Jana Pelclová, Ph.D. (lecturer)
Guaranteed by
doc. PhDr. Jana Chamonikolasová, Ph.D.
Department of English and American Studies - Faculty of Arts
Contact Person: Tomáš Hanzálek
Supplier department: Department of English and American Studies - Faculty of Arts
Prerequisites (in Czech)
AJ09999 Qualifying Examination || AJ01002 Practical English II
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
The capacity limit for the course is 10 student(s).
Current registration and enrolment status: enrolled: 11/10, only registered: 0/10, only registered with preference (fields directly associated with the programme): 0/10
Fields of study the course is directly associated with
there are 7 fields of study the course is directly associated with, display
Course objectives
The course introduces the paradigm in the study of language having developed after Noam Chomsky's breakup with behaviorism, which resulted in what is today known as the "cognitive revolution". We discuss the importance of linguistics for studies in psychology and cognitive science, the possible innate and learned elements of the language faculty, psychological and neurobiological bases of language perception and production, and important issues of language acquisition in both normal and unusual circumstances (e.g. neurological or developmental disorders). The course therefore aims to familiarize the students with the basic ideas of post-structuralist approaches to language science. After the completed course, the student should be able to comprehend the basic problems of modern Anglo-American theoretical linguistics; realize its importance among other disciplines studying the mind and human nature (e.g. the philosophy of mind, cognitive psychology, neuroscience); gain some elementary epistemological background against which they may assess the importance of particular branches of linguistics they have or will study in their program (e.g. phonology, syntax, semantics); adopt some elementary concepts of modern cognitivistic approaches to linguistics, from both the generative/Chomskian and cognitive/Lakoffian paradigms (e.g. nativism, universal grammar, poverty of stimulus, deep and surface structure, transformations / constructivism, prototypes, cross-domain mapping). Topics to be covered include issues of the position of linguistics within psychology and cognitive science throughout the 20th century; Chomskian universal and mental grammar; conflicts between nativist and constructivist approaches to language acquisition, in both normal and unusual circumstances (e.g. neurological disorders, genetic mutations, late or no exposure to language, including psychological abuse, physical trauma or brain damage); possible ways to approach phonological, syntactic and semantic structure (though semantics will be covered extremely briefly); possible ways to test hypotheses in linguistics experimentally.
Learning outcomes
After the completed course the student should: (1) operate the basic terminological apparatus of contemporary theoretical linguistics (concepts, definitions, examples in English); (2) be able to perform an elementary analysis of language phenomena discussed in the classes (e.g. ambiguity in phonology and syntax; the distinction between the physical and psychological reality of structures; instances of child vs. adult language) (3) explain, using his or her own examples, how hypotheses in linguistics can be tested experimentally (native speaker’s intuition, psycholinguistics, neurolinguistics) (4) understand how phenomena studied in linguistics can be relevant to cognitive science at large (e.g. cognitive psychology, neuroscience, speech therapy,...). Success in these four domains will be measured by means of a written test which will be administered to students 3 weeks upon the completion of the course, at the earliest.
  • 1. Linguistics as the scientific study of language. Types of signs, the “symbolic” nature of language and some historically relevant dichotomies in linguistics (e.g. nature/nurture, innate/acquired, universalism/relativism, language/parole...).
  • 2. The cognitive revolution of the 1960s. Chomsky and followers. The innate and the learned in language acquisition. The universal grammar hypothesis. The proposal for “mental grammars”. Linguistics as a descriptive, not prescriptive discipline.
  • 3. Analysis of a communicative situation. The semantic/semiotic triangle. Concepts. Hypothesis of innate knowledge in generative linguistics. The opposing, relativist/constructivist view in “usage-based” cognitive linguistics.
  • 4. Organization of mental grammar. Language as a vehicle connecting thought and sound. The double articulation problem and its treatment after the cognitive revolution.
  • 5. Functionalism. Experiments in linguistics (native speaker’s intuition, psycholinguistic experiments, neurolinguistic experiments).
  • 6. Ambiguity and its importance in linguistics. Reductionist theories. The modularity hypothesis (Fodor). Recent critiques from the point of view of connectionism.
  • 7. Phonological structure. The distinction between the physical reality of sounds and the psychological reality of phonemes/segments. Distinctive features and morphophonemic changes. What else beside speech is found in the auditory signal?
  • 8. Syntactic structure. Deep and surface structure, transformations, psychological reality of constituents. Separation of grammar and meaning (Chomskian generative linguistics). Revived connection between grammar and meaning (cognitive linguistics, construction grammar, e.g. Goldberg).
  • 9. (First) language acquisition in normal circumstances. Stages, hypotheses, experiments.
  • 10. (First) language acquisition in unusual circumstances. Genetic, developmental, neurological disorders. Feral children.
    required literature
  • JACKENDOFF, Ray. Patterns In The Mind : Language And Human Nature. : Basic Books, 1995. ISBN 978-0-465-05462-6. info
Teaching methods
Morning sessions will be organized as lectures (with power point presentations, numerous textual, audio and visual examples, to include a lot of student discussion and participation). Afternoon sessions will be organized as workshops (entrenching the new concepts acquired in the mornings, to include exercises to be distributed on handouts, role-play activities, analysis of textual and auditory data, etc).
Assessment methods
There will be a final test of up to 30 questions (open-ended and multiple choice). The threshold to pass will be 75% (up to 22 points). The questions will be classified into four types, as related to the four learning outcomes given above. Attendance is compulsory, with possible tolerance of 1 missed day out of 5 (if justified).
Language of instruction
Further comments (probably available only in Czech)
Study Materials
The course is taught: in blocks.
Note related to how often the course is taught: 30.9.-4.10, 10.00-11.40 a 14.00-15.40.

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