Language Games and Talking Heads
Despite the diversity among the thousands of languages spoken in the world, there are striking similarities in the "tricks" that people and languages use. This seminar will explore what makes human language so special, the language games we play in communicating with each other, and what happens when communication goes wrong. Questions we will address include: What makes human language distinct from animal communication? How can brain damage and disorders affect language? Why can speakers get two very different interpretations out of the exact same string of words? Why do we end up singing song lyrics that are creative but absurd? Are speech errors really Freudian? What kinds of strategies do we use when we wish to convey—or avoid conveying—information? We will also explore how technology relates to language—why even the smartest computer programs still mangle the simplest sentences, how technology has infiltrated the way we communicate, how advances in technology allow us to investigate how children and adults acquire, process, and represent language.