Language Proseminar

Psych 5815-002

Fall 2004
Tu/Th 9:00 - 10:40 -- Muenzinger - D428

Eliana Colunga
Office: Muenzinger Room D447-B
Office Phone: 303-492-4282
Office Hours: Th 12-1 and by appointment
Email everyone in class

Discussion Forum

Course Goals

Language appears to be at the core of many human cognitive abilities. The goal of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to fundamental issues in cognitive psychology regarding language. We will read and discuss papers that address critical issues on these topics. At the end of the course you will have an idea of why language matters, how language is studied, and an understanding of different theories on how language works, how language is learned, where language comes from, and how language interacts with cognition.


We will meet twice a week. Students are expected to prepare for each meeting by reading assigned material (approximately 1-3 research articles per week) [NOTE now that we're meeting only half the semester, it'll be more like 2-6 research articles!] and contributing 2-3 discussion questions for the whole class to discuss. Discussion questions will be due midnight the night before class meets. Additionally, for each class, one person will be assigned to briefly present the major points of the readings.

During the semester we will have 2-3 debates on core issues of language during the semester. Each student will participate in one debate. Debate teams will be assigned in a semi-random fashion. The debate format, at least for the time being, will be as follows. The members of each team will divide the points they want to make among themselves. Each team member will present his/her argument, and all of the members of the other team will have the opportunity to respond. Each presentation will be limited to 15 minutes and each response to it to 10 minutes. Then chaos will ensue.

There will also be an essay take-home exam.

Evaluation will thus be as follows:


Tuesday Thursday
Week 1 Language & Cognition
Premack, 04
Pinker + Jackendoff, in press
Christiansen + Chater, 01
Week 2 Phonology
Goldinger & Azuma, 03 - Nicole
Plaut & Kello, 99 - Bob
Background: Nadeau, 01
Landauer & Dumais, 97 - Anson
Steels & Kaplan, 02 - Chris
Proudfoot & Copeland, 02 - Dusty
Week 3 Grammar - Dusty
Lidz, Gleitman,& Gleitman, 03
Goldberg, 04
Plante,Gomez & Gerken, 02
Morphology - Eliana
Pinker & Ullman, 02a
McClelland & Patterson, 02a
Pinker & Ullman, 02b
McClelland & Patterson, 02b
Week 4 Brain - Anson
Poeppel & Hickok, 04
Damasio et al, 04
Deacon, 04
Evolution - Chris
Jackendoff, 99
Senghas, 03
Steels, 03.
Week 5 Development - nouns Jenny
Colunga & Smith, in press
(2-columned version)
Development - verbs Nicole
Naigles, 96
Akhtar, 99
Tomasello, 00
Week 6 Development - Grammar
Marcus, 99
Gomez, 02
DEBATE: Rules & Words or Associations?
Hiromi & Jenny vs. Bob & Nicole
Week 7 Meaning - Bob
Yoshida & Smith, 03
Boroditsky et al, 02
Background:Pinker, 94
Space & Time - Eliana & Jenny
Casasanto et al, 04
Levinson et al, 02
Majid et al, 04
Week 8 Theory of Mind - ALL
Jenny - ToM & Autism
Hiromi - ToM & maternal language
Nicole - ToM & deafness
Bob - ToM & apes and babies
Dusty - ToM & complex syntax
Chris - ToM & society and evolution
Eliana - ToM & bilingualism
Unanswered Questions (Number)
Gordon, 04
Feigenson et al, 04
Position Panel: The relation between language and thought
Anson & Chris & Dusty


Other information


A grade of incomplete will be given only if (1) all completed work is satisfactory (i.e., C- or better) and (2) there is a valid reason that you cannot complete the course. If you would like to be considered for an incomplete, contact me as soon as you know.

Statement about disabilities

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services (DS) early in the semester so that your needs may be addressed. DS determines accommodations based on documented disabilities (303-492-8671, Willard 322,

Academic dishonesty

Students are expected to adhere to the University of Colorado Student Honor Code for every assignment and exam in this class. Honor code information is at

Classroom behavior policy

The information on classroom behavior policy can be found at However, in addition to not being incredibly disruptive and obnoxious in class, I expect you to be on time for class meetings, not read newspapers or magazines in the classroom, not disrupt the class with conversation, interact with fellow students in a respectful manner during class discussions, ask questions when you don't understand the material, and communicate complaints, criticisms and suggestions either personally or anonymously to the instructor and/or teaching assistant.