Image credit: P. Nowak, Gymnasium Knittelfeld

What is “language”?—And why does it matter?

Image credit: P. Nowak, Gymnasium Knittelfeld

What is “language”?—And why does it matter?

Abstract

In this two-hour workshop, we will jointly ask, explore, and attempt to answer the question “What is language?” To provide participants with the intellectual tools for formulating possible answers, we will start off in the first part by reviewing some basic insights of modern linguistics–the scientific study of language. Next, we will consider the various sub-fields where linguistics intersects with other academic disciplines ranging from sociology, to neuroscience, computer science, and philosophy. In the second part, we will then take a closer look at the intersection of linguistics with biology by discussing how cognitive scientists tend to define language and reviewing work on the neurobiological basis of the human capacity for language which has embraced this definition. Special attention will be paid to the fundamentally abstract nature of the human language faculty, as well as to the study and neurobiology of sign language. Against this background, we will end by jointly discussing the potential general relevance of such basic research and how it can inform an evolutionary perspective on language and our species.

Date
Location
Knittelfeld, Österreich