Institute of Cognitive Science Colloquium Schedule

All colloquia take place on Friday from 12:00 to 2:00 pm (unless otherwise noted) in Room D428 and D430 on the fourth floor of the Muenzinger Psychology Building.

If you have questions, please call the ICS Office at 303-492-5063.

Fall 2017

August 28, 2017
First Day of Classes

September 8, 2017
Opening Session - Tamara Sumner

Director, Institute of Cognitive Science

September 15, 2017 - Distinguished Speaker Talk
*Moved to Muen E214*
Ray Jackendoff
Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy, Co-director - Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University

Title: What Can You Say Without Syntax? A Hierarchy of Grammatical Complexity

Abstract: What would a language be like which lacked syntactic structure, and which mapped directly between phonology and meaning? To explore this question, we propose a hierarchy of grammatical complexity for natural languages. Unlike the familiar Chomsky hierarchy, which deals only with uninterpreted formal languages, this hierarchy concerns the machinery available to map between sound and meaning. It ranges from languages that allow only one-word utterances to fully complex languages such as English, and includes a number of possibilities that lack recursion.

Corresponding to each of these types of grammar, we propose a set of possible interface rules that correlate linguistic structure with meaning. In particular, the interface rules allow for pragmatic elaborations of meaning beyond that provided by the individual words. As the linguistic structure becomes more complex, it offers more affordances for complex principles of interpretation. In many cases, interface rules can do the sort of work normally attributed to syntax. For instance, a rule such as “Agent First” correlates a thematic role in semantics with a linear position in linguistic expression. It can implement constraints on word order even with a grammar that lacks grammatical categories and that simply concatenates words. Crucially, it turns out that the interface rules useful for less complex languages scale up to fully complex languages as well.

This hierarchy proves useful in differentiating various linguistic and quasi-linguistic phenomena for which linguists have previously had only the binary distinction “grammar” versus “no grammar.” Examples include the early stages of language acquisition by children and adults, homesigns, emerging sign languages such as Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language and Central Taurus Sign Language, and the “perceptual strategies” found in language comprehension by normal speakers. Many peripheral constructions of English and other fully developed languages utilize only the power of lower steps in the hierarchy. Finally, some “full” languages such as Riau Indonesion and Pirahã appear only to use principles from lower domains of the hierarchy.

We conclude that the human language faculty is a palimpsest that includes many of these layers. The upper layers are more difficult to acquire and process, and possibly require the lower layers for scaffolding. It is plausible that some of of these layers represent stages in the evolution of the modern human language capacity.

September 29, 2017
Kyunghyun Cho
Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Center for Data Science, New York University

October 6, 2017
Agnieszka Burzynska
Assistant Professor, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Colorado State University

Title: Modifiers of Structural and Functional Brain Aging - From Physical Activity to Occupational Exposures

Abstract: As the world’s population is aging, there is a pressing need to understand how lifestyle exposures shape the adult brain, slowing down or accelerating age-related decline. I will present our reserach on the associations of physical activity, aerobic fitness, and occupational exposures with structural and functional MRI indices of brain health, as well as results from the exercise and dance intervention study in older adults.

October 13, 2017
Michael Mozer
Professor, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder

October 20, 2017
Phillip Gilley

Research Associate, Institute of Cognitive Science, University of Colorado Boulder

November 3, 2017
Robert Rupert
Professor, Philosophy, University of Colorado Boulder

November 10, 2017
Clayton Lewis
Professor, Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder

November 23-24, 2017
Thanksgiving - CU Closed

December 1, 2017
Philip Fernbach
Assistant Professor, LEEDS School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder

December 8, 2017
Kimberly Chiew
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Denver