time and room: Mon 2-5, 330 Conant Hall

The main theme of the seminar will be the evolution and development of human language-"the ontogeny and phylogeny of speech." The first two or three weeks will be devoted to reading Pinker's (1994) Language Instinct. In addition we will read on the topics of cognitive development, biology of language, some stuff on evolution, and materials relating to language acquisition itself, including some exercises using the CHILDES database of acquisition transcripts.

tentative requirements

(these may change depending on participants)

Keep up with the readings.

Each week there will be a short written assignment.

Everyone must pass a written exam (pass/fail) on the "basics" of language, after we finish Pinker's book. This may be repeated until successful!

Everyone, periodically, will be responsible for presenting something to the seminar.

I expect everyone to have access to email and the Internet. Most short assignments will be turned in by email; much language information is available on the internet. (See

Everyone will do some sort of original research project due at the end of the course.

tentative readings

background reading

Gleitman, H. (1995) Psychology. (chapters on language, language development, cognitive development.)

Ashcraft, M. (1994) Language (ch. 8, pp.361-412) in his Human memory and cognition. New York: HarperCollins.

books (these are all available in paperback and available at the Durham Book Exchange, Main Street)

Armstrong, D. F., Stokoe, W. C., & Wilcox, S. E. (1995). Gesture and the nature of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bloom, P. (Ed.). (1995). Readings on language acquistion. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). Beyond modularity. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct. New York: William Morrow and Company.

articles etc. (very tentative at this point)

(also see my 712/812 course readings)

Bavin, Language acquisition in cross-linguistic perspective In Annual review of anthropology, 24, 1995 (Oct.1995)

Bellugi, U., Bihrle, A., Neville, H., Doherty, S., & Jernigan, T. (1992). Language, cognition, and brain organization in a neurodevelopmental disorder. In M. R. Gunnar & C. A. Nelson (Eds.), Developmental behavioral neuroscience (pp. 201-232). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

de Haan, M., Luciana, M., Malone, S. M., Matheny, L. S., & Richards, M. L. (1994). Development, plasticity, and risk: Commentary on Huttenlocher, Pollitt and Gorman, and Gottesman and Goldsmith. In C. A. Nelson (Eds.), Threats to optimal development (pp. 161-178). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Gazzaniga, M. (Ed.). (1995). The cognitive neurosciences. Cambridge: MIT Press. (various chapters)

Huttenlocher, P. R. (1994). Synaptogenesis, synapse elimination, and neural plasticity in human cerebral cortex. In C. A. Nelson (Eds.), Threats to optimal development (pp. 35-54). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Limber, J. (1973). The genesis of complex sentences. In T. Moore (Eds.), Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language (pp. 169-186). New York: Academic Press.

Limber, J. (1976). Syntax and sentence interpretation. In R. Wales & E. C. T. Walker (Eds.), New approaches to language mechanisms (pp. 151-181). Amsterdam: North Holland.

Limber, J. (1976). Unravelling competence, performance, and pragmatics in the speech of young children. Journal of Child Language, 3, 309-318.

Limber, J. (1977). Language in child and chimp? , 32, 280-295 (Reprinted in Sebeok, T. & Sebeok, J. (Eds.) (1980). Speaking of Apes (pp.197-218). New York: Plenum Press.).

Limber, J. (1978). Goodbye Behaviorism! The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 4, 535-536.

Limber, J. (1982). What can chimps tell us about the origins of language. In S. Kuczaj (Eds.), Language Development: Volume 2 (pp. 429-446). Hillsdale, NJ: L. E. Erlbaum.

Marcus, G. F. (1993). Negative evidence in language acquisition. Cognition, 46, 53-85.