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014 Language and Cognition


What Exactly is "Language"?

There are over 7000 languages spoken worldwide, where only 23 languages account for more than half of the worlds population. Why are there so many languages today?  

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Image by takelessons 

Why is it Important to Save Minority Languages? 

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According to the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger, between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct. It is estimated that there are currently 3045 endangered languages today.  


Why are many languages disappearing today? What can we do to save these "endangered" languages? What are the impacts of a language going extinct?

How Does the Brain Process Language?

The interaction between language and cognition remains an unsolved scientific problem.


How does the brain process language? What is the connection between language and cognition? Do people who speak different languages think differently?

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How do Children Learn Languages so Quickly?

One of the great mysteries of language and cognition is how children learn language. When babies are born, they are not able to speak or understand any words, but within only a few years, children are able to speak full sentences.

Why do children learn languages much faster than an adult? What happens with children's brains to allow them to learn so quickly? 

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Is Language only Unique to the Human Species?

The human language is unique among all forms of communication within the animal kingdom. Humans are the only species that have the ability to communicate with one another through the use of language. In comparison, animals have a number of inborn qualities they use to express their feelings, but these are not like the formed words used in the human language.


What are the differences in the way humans communicate compared to animals? Are there any aspects of human language that are truly unique in the animal kingdom? 

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Image by Animal Matter

This course examines some of the interrelationships between language, the brain, and thought.  Do people who speak different languages think differently? What does language tell us about how people conceptualize objects and abstract notions such as time and space? How does language relate to other cognitive processes?  Is there a language gene? What can we learn about how humans produce language through speech errors and neuropathologies? Is language a uniquely human ability?  


Students interested in taking this course must have an interest and a basic foundation in linguistics. This course will cover various areas of linguistics and cognition. Pre-workshop reading and assignments will be assigned and may need to be completed prior to the start of this course.  

Workshop Expectations

All students in this workshop will conduct original research. With support from the Professor, students will learn how to: formulate original research questions, develop a hypothesis, conduct a literature review, choose relevant methodologies, and analyze data.

Past Students' Research Projects

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014-20 Student Research - Eureka Program Linguistics.jpg
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