The Language Phenomenon: Instinct or Artifact?


INSTRUCTOR: Lergia Olivo



Course Description

Language is an essential element in the lives of all humans, independent of social, environmental, or personal setting. But even after so many years of research, there is still much debate about how humans acquire language.

In this course, students will explore the language phenomenon from multiple perspectives, beginning with traditional views introduced by Noam Chomsky and developed by cognitive psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker. Through interdisciplinary research, we’ll look at examples through lens of speech pathology, psychology, education, biology, and others. We will also discuss perspectives that challenge the traditional “language as instinct” ideology.

In today’s world of increasing globalization where people regularly find themselves moving around the world, the language acquisition debate is relevant to both adults and the children that they take along. Additionally, the current world landscape of immigration lends itself to a discussion into language acquisition and cultural assimilation. Students will explore if/how these differing perspectives intersect and extend to second- or foreign-language acquisition.