Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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Thinking about language

Linguistics scholar Ray Jackendoff to present lecture

Have you ever wondered what role language plays in shaping your own train of thought?

Ray Jackendoff, an internationally renowned scholar of linguistics and researcher of cognitive science, will provide some answers during his lecture “Language, Meaning and Rational Thought” on Thursday, April 4, at 5 p.m. in Hindle Auditorium. This lecture is part of Wheaton's Norman W. Johnson series.

Jackendoff, a professor of philosophy at Tuffs University, studies the connections between language and consciousness. The lecture, based on his recent book, A User’s Guide to Thought and Meaning (Oxford University Press, 2012), will explore the experience of human thought as inner speech.

“Language transcends departmental and divisional boundaries,” says Assistant Professor of Computer Science Tom Armstrong, who assisted in selecting Jackendoff as a speaker for the series. “This lecture will resonate with a diverse audience. From Psychology and Anthropology to Russian and Film and New Media Studies, all majors will have an opportunity to engage with new thinking about language from an expert whose scholarship is necessarily interdisciplinary.”

A student of Noam Chomsky, the cognitive scientist who is often called “the father of modern linguistics,” Jackendoff received his Ph.D. in linguistics from M.I.T. in 1969. Jackendoff developed the theory of Conceptual Semantics, a framework semantic analysis. Semantics is the study of meaning: the relationship between signifiers like words or symbols, and the meaning that they represent.

Currently co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, the scholar has been president of both the Linguistic Society of America and the Society for Philosophy and Psychology. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the Linguistic Society of America, and of the Cognitive Science Society.

The Norman W. Johnson lecture series is supported by the Norman W. Johnson Endowed Fund in Mathematics and Computer Science. Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, discovered a family of geometric figures now known as the Johnson solids, and helped to develop Wheaton College’s first courses in computer science. Since 2000, the fund has supported nine lectures in appreciation of mathematics and computing. Most recently, in 2008, the series included a lecture on symmetry by Professor Johnson himself.

—Elizabeth Meyer '14