Topics in language and thought
Wednesdays 3-6pm, in 205 Wheeler
Instructor: Terry Regier (office hours Wednesdays 10am-12pm in
Description: This course is a graduate seminar on the relation
of language and thought. We will explore universal aspects of
cognition that underlie language, and the effect of one's native
language on cognition. We will do this by: (1) reading recent papers
on these issues, (2) identifying interesting questions that are left
open by the material covered, and (3) designing and conducting
research to answer those questions.
What I hope you will get out of this class: Familiarity with
this literature, experience in presenting research, experience in
planning and conducting research, and ultimately, a publishable paper.
Guiding organizational principle: As a graduate student, your
top academic priority should be engaging in research, and ultimately
writing your dissertation. I would like this course to be helpful to
you in that respect. To that end, the class will be run more or less
as a lab meeting, with attention both to surveying recent literature,
and to tracking your research projects - either projects you already
have under way, or projects you undertake in the context of this
class. Don't worry if you don't yet have a project ready to go -
we'll help you explore the issues you care about, so you can choose a
Format: Each week's session will be divided in two. The first
half will be devoted to discussing that week's readings, and the
second half to discussing the research, or preparation for research,
of two students. Please consider this a friendly, low-pressure forum
in which you can explore ideas you are interested in, but that you're
not quite ready to go fully public with yet.
What I expect of you:
- Engage the readings in discussion.
- Present one or more of the readings in class.
- Present and lead discussion of your own research ideas in class.
- If you are taking the class for a letter grade, I will also
paper describing your project.
Final papers due: Monday, December 12, at 8am, by email
(address to be sent to you via bSpace).
Initial reading list
- Origins of human communication
- M. Tomasello (2008). How are humans
- M. Tomasello and E. Herrmann (2010). Ape
and human cognition: What's the difference? Current Directions
in Psychological Research.
- M. Tomasello (2008). Origins of human
- N. Enfield (2009). Social motives for
syntax [review of Tomasello's OHC]. Science.
- Cognitive bases of language learning
- J. Tenenbaum et al. (2011). How to grow
a mind: Statistics, structure, and
- A. Perfors et al. (2011). The
learnability of abstract syntactic principles.
Cognition, 118, 306-338.
- R. Berwick et al. (2011). Poverty of the
stimulus revisited. Cognitive Science.
- Semantic systems and optimal communication
- S. Piantadosi et al. (2011). Word
lengths are optimized for efficient communication.
- T. Regier et al. (2007). Color naming
reflects optimal partitions of color space. PNAS.
- N. Khetarpal et al. (2009). Spatial
terms reflect near-optimal spatial categories. In N. Taatgen et
al. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Meeting of the
Cognitive Science Society.
- N. Khetarpal et al. (2010). Similarity
judgments reflect both language and cross-language tendencies:
Evidence from two semantic domains. In S. Ohlsson and
R. Catrambone (Eds.), Proceedings of the 32nd Annual Meeting of
the Cognitive Science Society.
- D. Jones (2010). Grammars of kinship
and color: Cognitive universals and optimal communication. In
Kinship, language, and prehistory: Per Hage and the renaissance
in kinship studies. University of Utah Press.
- D. Jones (2010). Human kinship, from
conceptual structure to grammar. Behavioral and Brain Sciences
- Semantic maps
- M. Haspelmath (2003). The geometry of
grammatical meaning: Semantic maps and cross-linguistic
comparison. In Tomasello, M. (Ed.), The new psychology of
language, vol. 2 (pp. 211-242). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- D. Angluin et al. (2010). Inferring
social networks from outbreaks. In Hutter, M. et al. (Eds.),
Algorithmic Learning Theory 2010, LNCS 6331 (pp. 104-118).
- T. Regier et al. (under
review). Inferring conceptual structure from cross-language
- Can language restructure cognition?
- A. Majid et al. (2004). Can language
restructure cognition? The case for space. TICS.
- D. Haun et al. (2006). Cognitive
cladistics and cultural override in Hominid spatial
- L. Boroditsky and A. Gaby
(2010). Remembrances of times east: Absolute spatial
representations of time in an Australian Aboriginal
community. Psychological Science.
- P. Li et al. (2011). Spatial reasoning
in Tenejapan Mayans. Cognition.
- O. Le Guen (2011). Speech and gesture in
spatial language and cognition among the Yucatec
Mayas. Cognitive Science.
- M. Christiansen and N. Chater (2008).
Language as shaped by the brain. Behavioral and Brain
- T. J. O'Donnell et al. (2011).
Productivity and reuse in language. Proceedings of the 33rd
Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society.
- D. Haun et al. (2011). Plasticity of
human spatial memory: Spatial language and cognition covary across
- E. Herrmann et al. (2007). Humans have
evolved specialized skills of social cognition: The cultural
intelligence hypothesis. Science.
- S. Foraker et al. (2009). Indirect
evidence and the poverty of the stimulus: The case of anaphoric
one. Cognitive Science, 33, 287-300.
- F. Reali and M. Christiansen
(2005). Uncovering the richness of the stimulus: Structure
dependence and indirect statistical evidence. Cognitive
Science, 29, 1007-1028.
- A. Clark and R. Eyraud (2007).
Polynomial identification in the limit of substitutable
context-free languages. Journal of Machine Learning Research,