Language in the Mind

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Course Objective

All human beings without exception learn and use language. Yet, it is more common to associate it with cultural phenomena than as a cognitive or biological phenomena. The objective of this course is to look at language as a form of computation in the mind. It will introduce both symbolic and non-symbolic approaches that have been used by linguists and computer scientists to understand the computational mechanism of languages in the mind. On successful completion of the course, students will be familiar with the use of a few analytical tools used in linguistics to make generalizations about natural languages.

Course Content

The discipline of Linguistics as we understand it today is based on the idea of investigating the formal/computational nature of linguistic processes in natural language. This course begins by tracing parallel developments in language and computation during the time of the cognitive revolution in the 50s. As language is learnt from infancy, we begin by introducing two approaches to learning: top-down and bottom-up. Further, we discuss language architectures that are both symbolic and non-symbolic in order to account for a fragment of English grammar: the past tense and nominalization. Following this, the course introduces some of the basic tools used by linguists in the analysis of language, while introducing concepts such as the syllable, morpheme, constituent structure etc.
During lab sessions, students will work on problem sets to familiarize themselves with the analytical tools in linguistics. They will get a chance to work on datasets in South Asian languages such as Malayalam and Hindi.

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