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LING-273 Language and Mind
Fall for 2010-2011
Faculty:
  • Lightfoot, David
  • In this class, we will seek to characterize that ability (a "language organ"), which may vary depending on where a person is raised: people have different capacities depending on whether they were raised in Toronto, Tokyo or Tromso.
    We shall try to tease apart general properties of the human language capacity, common to the species, from specific capacities which are a function of initial experience.
    We shall examine how the interplay of nature and nurture results in people coming to know so much more than they experience in childhood. We shall attend to (a) language variation, looking at languages as variants of a kind of basic "periodic table" which is genetically prescribed, (b) the acquisition of language by children in the first few years of life, as the basic periodic table develops into the specific capacity of, say, a speaker of some form of French, and (c) the capacity to understand spoken language.
    We shall compare what is known about the human language organ with other aspects of our cognitive make-up, considering how human cognition and the language faculty have been viewed by thinkers like Plato, Descartes, Darwin and others. No Prerequisites.
    Credits: 3
    Prerequisites: None
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