Language and cognition: from theory to application (arch.)

Instructor: Assistant professor Renata Geld, PhD
Course title: Language and cognition: from theory to application
Language: English
Number of hours per semester: 30 hours
ECTS: 4 credits
Level: graduate (graduate course open to all graduate students of English)
Course content: Students attending this course will be encouraged to discover and re-discover the nature of language and its relation to various aspects of cognition, aa well as hypothesize the relevance of this relationship for various fields of science and everyday life. They will situate linguistics and language within the realm of cognitive science, and they will be invited to discuss the importance of interdisciplinary thought in education.
Being a sophisticated and complex phenomenon, language offers numerous insights into how our mind works, i.e. how language relates to thought. The aim of this course is to introduce the fundamental notions related to human conceptual organization and discuss evidence supporting the idea that language communicates with other cognitive processes. If this is so, the language we speak represents a source of information about the nature of our mental imagery and cognitive processes such as attention, judgment and categorization, perspective, etc. Furthermore, the interrelation between language and our perceptual and conceptual knowledge opens up possibilities to investigate how human interaction with the world and our specific sensory experience affects the nature of language. This, in turn, allows linguists, psychologists, educationalists, special needs educationalists and speech therapists, first and second language researchers, philosophers, computer scientists, cognitive scientists, and many others, to use language as a “diagnostic” tool to determine both highly individual and largely universal phenomena pertaining to the way we perceive, process and understand, store and use our knowledge. In addition, insights from language and studies of language have been widely used to explore other modes of communication, meaning construal and representation. For example: the language children speak tells us a great deal about how their perceptual and conceptual categories are formed; various elements in the language of the congenitally blind proved to be informative about their mental imagery and the role of alternate sensory input they experience; what we attend to in the process of learning something new tells us a great deal about what we already know and how our domains of knowledge relate to each other; the nature of visual representation of meaning as well as imagery in general have been investigated in relation to language and linguistic meaning construal.

The course structure:
Week 1
– Introduction to central notions and students’ existing knowledge and/or beliefs about them: linguistics and cognitive science, human mind, general cognitive processes, perception, mental imagery, concepts and conceptualization, experience and embodiment, language and linguistic meaning construal.
Week 2 – Cognitive science –significance of interdisciplinarity.
Week 3 – Students’ reports (students’ field(s) of interest and future profession, motivation for joining the course, and tentative ideas about the importance of fundamental notions introduced); the way we think, the way we learn, the way we teach.
Week 4 – Conceptual integration and human creativity.
Week 5 – The relationship between our body and mind, and the affect this relationship is likely to have on our thought and language.
Week 6 – What our language(s) reveal about our sensory experiences, cultural phenomena, and everyday life.
Week 7 – Continual assessment.
Week 8 – The nature of multimodal meaning construal: words and images.
Week 9 – Brainstorming and discussing ideas for individual micro-projects.
Week 10 – Presentation of topics for micro-projects.
Week 11 – How to test theoretical assumptions, conduct research, and apply relevant findings.
Week 12 – Consolidation and revision.
Week 13 – Students’ reports (micro-projects).
Week 14 – Students’ reports (micro-projects).
Week 15 – Students’ reports (micro-projects).

Required reading:
Carney, R. N. and Levin, J. R. (2002). Pictorial illustrations still improve students’ learning from text. Educational Psychology Review 14: 5-26.

Croft, W. and Wood, E. J. (2000). Construal operations in linguistics and artificial intelligence. In: Albertazzi, L. (ed.), Meaning and Cognition, A multidisciplinary approach. Amsterdam/ Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (2003). “Polysemy and Conceptual Blending.” In Polysemy: Flexible Patterns of Meaning in Mind and Language. Edited by Brigitte Nerlich, Vimala Herman, Zazie Todd, and David Clarke. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Pages 79-94. A volume in the series Trends in Linguistics.

Fauconnier, G. and Turner, M. (2002). The Way We Think: Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books. (selected chapters)

Gardner, H. (1985). The Mind’s New Science: A History of the Cognitive Revolution. New York: Basic Books. (chapters 3 and 7)

Geld, R. (2014). “Investigating meaning construal in the language of the blind: a cognitive linguistic perspective.” Suvremena lingvistika [Contemporary Linguistics]. 77. 27-59.

Geld, R. and Stanojević, M.-M. (2018). Strateško konstruiranje značenja riječju i slikom – konceptualna motivacija u ovladavanju jezikom [Strategic Construal of Meaning Using Words and Images: Cognitive Motivation in Second Language Learning]. Zagreb: Srednja Europa. (selected chapters)

Gibbs, W. R. (2006). Embodiment and Cognitive Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (selected chapters)

Langacker, R. W. (1999). Grammar and Conceptualization. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. (selected chapters)

Parrill, F., Tobin, V., and Turner, M. (eds.) (2010). Meaning, Form, and Body. Stanford: Center for the Study of Language and Information. (selected chapters)

Schank, R. (2011). Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Save Our Schools. New York: Teachers College Press. (selected chapters)

Turner, M. (2014). The Origin of Ideas: Blending, Creativity, and the Human Spark. New York: Oxford University Press. (selected chapters)

At the end of this course, at a general level, the students will be able to:
– find relevant literature and read it critically;
– analyze and synthesize various data;
– participate in discussions argumentatively and open-mindedly;
– appreciate and accept criticism and other people’s opinions;
– initiate, design and conduct a small-scale research project.

At a more specific level, the students will be able to:
– consolidate their prior linguistic and general knowledge with new insights about the nature of language and human conceptualization;
– consolidate their prior linguistic and general knowledge with new insights about the interrelation between language and other cognitive processes;
– apply theoretical knowledge about the nature of language and cognition to their own areas of interest;
– recognize the relevance of certain interrelations between language and cognition for various scientific disciplines and fields of life.