CFA: Language at the Interface

Call for Abstracts: Language at the Interface

Department of Philosophy, Simon Fraser University
Vancouver, April 24-26, 2015


Peter Carruthers (Maryland)
Wolfram Hinzen (Barcelona/Durham)
Friederike Moltmann (CNRS/NYU)
Anna Papafragou (Delaware)

Conference Overview

Serious and detailed proposals concerning the relationship between language and thought—or, as it might be put today, the language-cognition interface—have recently emerged within the cognitive sciences. Within linguistics, for example, a program of research broadly known as the “Minimalist Program” is underway whose guiding assumption is that the computational system of language is only as complex as it needs to be to meet the demands of the cognitive systems it interacts with, making it crucially important for the study of language to have some understanding of what these cognitive systems are like. Within psychology, a complementary research program concerns the relationship between language and our core cognitive systems. This program investigates how language is implicated in the emergence of distinctively human representations that cut across these core systems (i.e., domain-general representations), making it crucially important for these investigators to have some understanding of what language is like such that it can be recruited to this task. These programs illustrate the way that serious thinking about the language-cognition interface is rapidly changing the sorts of questions we can ask about the nature of distinctively human thought.

The aim of our three-day conference is to explore a wide range of questions at the intersection of linguistics, psychology, and philosophy that might be raised in connection with these and other lines of research into the place of language in the architecture of the mind. So, for example, a key claim made within the core-cognition framework is that language exhibits none of the modular limitations of the core systems that make use of it. How is this to be reconciled with the common assumption that language is a modular system? Moreover, it is standard for Minimalists to assume the existence of substantive constraints that emerge from the systems of thought with which language is assumed to interact. But to what extent is it explanatory to appeal to an antecedent system of thought to explain linguistic phenomena? Could a more radical view of the connection between language and thought be sustained? More generally, we might ask how these and other programs of research should shape our inquiry into language and the mind. Should the philosophy of mind be accorded a larger role in the study of language than it typically is? Should the philosophy of language play a more significant role in the study of the mind?

Important Dates

We invite 1–2 page abstracts on any topic related to the language-mind interface, broadly construed. Send anonymized abstracts to by January 15, 2015, and include personal information (name, institution, contact information) in your email.

For more information about the conference please visit the conference website or contact the conference organizers: Ashley Atkins (SFU) and James Martin (Princeton/SFU).

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