Language, Mind, and Brain

Illustration of human head anatomy with brain

Class Dates

October 17, 2019 to December 10, 2019

Meeting Days

Tuesdays and Thursdays: 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.


AME Building (UA Campus)



Course Instructor(s)

This seven-week Community Classroom course will give you a chance to study language and cognition with the founder of modern linguistics, Professor Noam Chomsky. The course will be co-taught by Professor Chomsky, UA Agnese Nelms Haury Chair and Laureate Professor of Linguistics; Linguistics Regents’ Professor Tom Bever; and Dr. Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, Professor of Cognitive Science, Linguistics and Psychology.

This linguistics course will use language as a lens into the human mind and brain, and will follow and explore the field of “biolinguistics,” the scientific investigation of language and mind that Noam Chomsky has been developing since he founded the program of study 70 years ago.  The main theme of Chomsky’s program and the course is that language and other mental abilities are based in a combination of genetic capacities, maturation, experience, physical and computational constraints.  Professors Chomsky, Bever, and Piattelli-Palmarini will take turns lecturing, and time will be allotted for discussions on a range of topics that integrate the study of language with research on the mind and brain. 

A few examples of lecture topics include:

  • How does being puzzled about simple everyday observations contribute to scientific progress (Chomsky)? 
  • How has language science revealed and reflected basic issues in cognitive science (Bever)?
  • What does language science tell us about the nature and universal properties of language (Chomsky)?
  • What do we know about how the brain is organized for language and cognition (Piattelli-Palmarini)?
  • What does the perception of speech tell us about unconscious computations and consciousness (Bever)?
  • What do we know, and what are researchers learning about the genetics and evolution of language and mind (Piattelli-Palmarini)?
  • Why does word meaning depend on mental processes as well as maps of the world (Chomsky)?

Each class meeting will consist of two 55-minute lectures divided by a 10 minute break with questions and discussion interspersed through each lecture.

Readings and Syllabus

Once they are registered, you will receive access to all the posted readings. Unlike your fellow UA students, Community members do not take quizzes and write papers and can go through the readings at your own choice and pace.

Attendance & Participation

Please be aware that unregistered guests are not able to attend class meetings. Due to safety and security protocols, only registered UA students and Community Classroom students as well as registered guests will be allowed inside the classroom. Community members may attend one class session without charge. If you are interested, please contact Kerstin Miller at (520) 621-5111 or at least one day before the class meeting.


You can register online starting Monday, August 19, 2019, at 10 a.m.

Refunds are available and need to be requested before or by October 23. To drop a class, please contact Kerstin Miller at 520-621-5111 or A $25 administrative fee for each cancellation will apply.

Location & Parking

This course meets in Room #S202 in AME (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering), 1130 N. Mountain Ave.

Plenty of lot Zone 1 parking is available immediately east of AME. Parking is free there after 5 pm. To access that lot, turn east onto Helen from Mountain and turn right (south) into lot # 1018.