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What can the study of language contribute to our understanding of human nature? This question motivates research spanning many intellectual constituencies, for its range exceeds the scope of any one of the core disciplines. The technical study of language has developed across anthropology, electrical engineering, linguistics, neurology, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, and influential research of the recent era of cognitive science have occurred when disciplinary boundaries were transcended. The seminar is a forum for convening this research community of broadly differing expertise, within and beyond the University. As a meeting ground for regular discussion of current events and fundamental questions, the University Seminar on Language and Cognition will direct its focus to the latest breakthroughs and the developing concerns of the scientific community studying language.

Seminar Website

Professor Robert Remez

Leah Christman

All seminars will continue to meet virtually through Fall 2021. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change.

Meeting Schedule

09/23/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM
In the Beginning There Were No Words
Herbert Terrace, Columbia University


The literature on the evolution of language has focused mainly on the origins of grammar. Yet grammar could not evolve without words, whose origins have received virtually no attention. I will describe the remarkable shift from animal communication to words and discuss their phylogenetic and ontogenetic origins. My focus will be on non-verbal emotional and cognitive relations between an infant and her mother during the infant’s first year that are crucial for the initial production of words. Those relations are uniquely human.

12/02/2021 Online Meeting
4:00 PM

Sotaro Kita, University of Warwick (England, UK)

01/21/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM

Anna Shusterman, Wesleyan University

02/24/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM

John Sakata, McGill University (Canada)

03/24/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM

Jet Vonk, Columbia University

04/22/2022 Location TBD
4:00 PM

Sandeep Prasada, Hunter College, CUNY