Linguistics at JHU

At JHU, Linguistics is fully integrated into the Department of Cognitive Science. There is no separate Linguistics department and undergraduate students may select Linguistics as one of two foci for their BA in Cognitive Science, or add a Minor in Linguistics to another degree. The department offers basic and advanced undergraduate and graduate training covering all core areas including phonetics & phonology, syntax, semantics & pragmatics, psycholinguistics, acquisition, and fieldwork. A significant number of BA recipients have gone on to pursue graduate studies in Formal Linguistics in top departments around the country. In 2010, the National Research Council ranked us as one of the top departments in the country in which to study linguistics.

To understand what’s unique to studying Linguistics at JHU, please read on, starting with a very brief historical perspective on the field of Generative Linguistics.

Since Noam Chomsky’s proposal in the 1950’s that the object of study in Linguistics is a uniquely human mental capacity, Linguistics has been one of the core disciplines of Cognitive Science. Generative/Formal Linguistics has focused on uncovering the nature of representations and general principles underlying linguistic behavior at distinct levels of structure (e.g. phonology, syntax, semantics), and has attempted to understand what type of knowledge and predispositions children are born with in order to successfully learn their first language.

Formal Linguistics has been quite successful at discovering the nature of linguistic representations and accounting for the complexity of linguistic knowledge. Viewing language in the broader context of Cognitive Science brings to light many important questions that traditional types of data and methods do not fully address: Does linguistic cognition share key computational properties with other cognitive domains? What is the nature of the algorithm that makes real-time language comprehension and production possible? How is linguistic computation implemented in the brain? We are now at the beginning of an exciting era in which the traditional analysis of linguistic representation and computation is being integrated with other research areas and methods in an effort to answer such questions. Formal Linguistics remains an active and fruitful research area, one that will realize its full potential by contributing to the broader goals of Cognitive Science.

At JHU, linguistics research focuses on integrating Formal Linguistics within a broader cognitive science perspective by addressing questions about the nature of linguistic representations themselves, their processing, the architecture and learnability of the grammar, the implementation of linguistic theories in terms of neural computations, and language acquisition in the broader context of cognitive development. Graduate training includes a) a rotation in two labs/groups covering multiple methodologies in cognitive science (e.g. theory & experiments, experiments & computation), and typically multiple empirical domains b) coursework in formal methods and c) coursework in a sub-discipline (e.g. linguistics, cognitive psychology), all designed so as to promote cohesion and department-internal cooperation. Graduate student research on linguistic problems benefits from solid training in linguistic theory and analysis combined with a broad background in Cognitive Science. Among the language-focused faculty are linguists as well as cognitive psychologists and computer scientists who share a broad intellectual vision of the study of the mind. Potential applicants may want to check the FAQ page.

Linguistics faculty

  • Barbara Landau (language acquisition, language and thought, cognitive neuropsychology of language)
  • Geraldine Legendre (syntax, acquisition of L1 (morpho)-syntax, architecture of the grammar)
  • Akira Omaki (psycholinguistics, first and second language acquisition, syntax, memory)
  • Kyle Rawlins (semantics/pragmatics, mathematical and computational linguistics)
  • Paul Smolensky  (phonology, grammar in neural networks, formal foundations of cognitive science)
  • Colin Wilson (phonology, phonetics, statistical language learning, L2 speech perception and production)

Other Cognitive Science faculty with language-related interests

  • Mike McCloskey (representation and processing of written and spoken words, cognitive neuropsychology of language)
  • Brenda Rapp (representation and processing of written and spoken words, cognitive neuropsychology of language)

Faculty with related interests in other JHU units

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

  • Susan Courtney (working memory)
  • Lisa Feigenson (cognitive development in infancy, working memory, knowledge of number)
  • Justin Halberda (logical reasoning in children, visuo-spatial representation, knowledge of number)

Center for Language and Speech Processing:

  • Chris Callison-Burch (statistical machine translation)
  • Mark Drezde (NLP)
  • Jason Eisner (computational linguistics, NLP)
  • Hynek Hernansky (automatic speech recognition, speech production and perception)
  • Sanjeev Khudanpur (automatic speech recognition, NLP, machine translation)
  • Benjamin Van Durme (computational semantics)
  • David Yarowsky (NLP, machine translation, machine learning)