Human Language: cognitive, neuroscientific and dynamical systems perspectives


Peter Andras (Computing Science)
Hermann Moisl (Linguistics)


University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK


February 20-22, 2004

Thanks to everyone who participated! 

Speakers: If you haven't already done so, fill in an expenses form for what you are claiming for and send together with receipts to:

Hermann Moisl
Department of English Literary and Linguistic Studies
Percy Building
University of Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU

The human language faculty has traditionally been studied mainly by two disciplines: generative linguistics and experimental neuroscience. Until fairly recently these have worked largely in isolation from one another. Linguistics has focused on explanation at the symbolic cognitive level, and ignored neuroscience on the grounds that it deals with the implementational level and is thus irrelevant to its concerns. Neuroscience has for its part taken a broadly reductionist view, and made little effort to relate brain mechanisms to those proposed by linguistics. These traditional paradigms have, moreover, now been joined by a third, dynamical systems theory, which is being used to interpret brain dynamics on the one hand, and language and cognition on the other. There are indications that the three approaches are finding common ground, but their respective conceptual frameworks and terminologies remain an obstacle to mutual understanding. The aim of this symposium is to promote further integration by bringing together researchers who can both articulate the current state of knowledge in their research paradigms, and engage in an informed discussion of the interrelationships of key concepts in linguistic, neuroscientific, and dynamical systems understanding of language.

The symposium will address the following topics:

  • Input systems: What is the response to input of brain networks closely associated with sensory modalities? How does the notion of attractor behaviour of input modalities from a dynamical systems perspective relate to that of representation in cognitive science and linguistics?
  • Integration of input systems: How are sensory input networks integrated in the brain? How does interaction of subsystem attractor dynamics relate to ideas about symbol grounding and semantics in cognitive science and linguistics?
  • Sequencing: What is the response of the brain to temporally-extended input sequences such as auditory input associated with language? How does attractor sequencing in dynamical systems modelling relate to notions of compositional structure in cognitive science and of the relationship between syntax and semantics in generative linguistics?