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Fundamental Science

The investigation of how humans learn, produce and understand language spans many disciplines and programs, from neuroscience, cognitive science and psychology to linguistics, anthropology, and philosophy.  Collaboration between researchers from diverse backgrounds leads to a broad perspective on language science. Maryland researchers are:

  • investigating the structure and diversity of human languages;
  • developing and testing theoretical models of language and speech to account for speakers’ complex knowledge and behavior;
  • developing computational models of language processing that aim to simulate human cognitive and neural processes;
  • investigating the cognitive mechanisms that make children such successful language learners, as well as the relationship between language development and cognitive development;
  • using neuroimaging, eyetracking, electrophysiological and other techniques to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that make human language processing so efficient.
Research spotlight: Learning the meanings of think, want and hope  
Verbs such as think, want and hope describe internal states which children cannot easily observe - so how do they learn their meanings? And can children's acquisition of these verbs tell us something about how they develop an understanding of other people’s minds? Faculty members and students in the Departments of Linguistics and Philosophy (Jeff Lidz, Valentine Hacquard and Erin Eaker; Shevaun Lewis, Morgan Moyer, Naho Orita, Aaron Steven White, Kaitlyn Harrigan, and Rachel Dudley) have been bringing together theoretical semantics and pragmatics with child language experiments to address these questions. More detailed information can be found on the project’s web page


Related links:

Department of Linguistics Department of Psychology Department of Philosophy Language and Music Cognition Lab
Program in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Language and Cognition  Lab Project on Children's Language Learning Social Kids Lab
PHLING (Philosophy and Linguistics student group) Neurocognitive Development Lab Maryland Neuroimaging Center Language Development and Perception Laboratories