On December 14th, William Bechtel from the Philosophy Department of UCSD, gave the very first SMART lecture on “Deciphering the Neural Code: A Critical Role for Representations in Understanding Cognitive Mechanisms”
On January 12th, Daniel Dennett, Professor of Philosophy, University Professor, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, gave a lecture on “The Evolution of Reasons”.
On January 18th, Kevin Knight, Senior Research Scientist and Fellow at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California (USC), and a Research Professor in USC’s Computer Science Department, gave a lecture on “Code-breaking and Language Translation: Some Connections”.
Professor Tecumseh Fitch gave a lecture on “Music and Language: The Formal Identity Hypothesis” on April 20th. The Formal Identity Hypothesis hold that the cognitive mechanisms underlying the formal aspects of music and language are identical, while their functional and semantic components are almost completely disjunct. Tecumseh explored these formal mechanisms in more detail and argued that several apparent formal differences in these domains are superficial results of differing use or shared vocal/auditory output constraints.
On May 25th, Professor of Animal Behaviour Carel ten Cate gave a lecture on the linguistic abilities of songbirds. For various reasons the song of songbirds are currently considered to be the closest animal analogue to language. This raises questions about to what extent particular perceptual and cognitive abilities that are considered to be closely linked to the production, perception and learning of language are present in songbirds. In this talk Ten Cate addressed two of such abilities. One concerns speech perception: is the ability to distinguish specific speech sound contrasts strictly human or also present in birds? The other one concerns the ability for detecting and learning particular grammar rules, using the paradigm of artificial grammars: what is the level of complexity that birds can cope with? Ten Cate related the findings in birds to those obtained in other animal species.
On June 22th, Professor Östen Dahl talked about how languages get complex. Complexity is a topic that has recently attracted considerable attention in linguistics. Among other things, the conventional wisdom that all human languages are equally complex has been challenged. In the talk, Dahl discussed how the general notion of complexity and how it can be applied to linguistic, in particular grammatical, complexity; how grammatical complexity develops over time in what he calls grammatical maturation processes; further, how grammatical complexity is influenced by external factors such as the extent to which a language is acquired and transmitted by adult second-language learners.