A multidisciplinary approach to language
Language is one of the most complex cognitive capacities that humans possess. Language articulation and perception involves the physical properties of the human vocal tract and ears, but also of the neural underpinning of our perception. Understanding meaning requires understanding the syntax and semantics of language, as well as the social nuances of what information one is expected to provide. Language acquisition by children affects and is affected by their cognitive development. All this is to say that the study of human language is a fundamentally multidisciplinary endeavor and one that therefore requires a broad range of different methodologies working both in parallel and in collaboration.
The CLPS department at Brown embodies this perspective, offering PhD programs in Linguistics as well as Cognitive Science and bringing together researchers studying different aspects of language including phonology and language change, semantics, pragmatics, syntax-semantics interface, speech and lexical processing, child language acquisition. the neural basis of language, and language and memory. We use a diverse range of methodologies including formal modeling, linguistic fieldwork, neurolinguistic methods including fMRI (both with normal participants and aphasic patients), psycholinguistic methods including reading time and eye-tracking, and quantitative corpus methods and computational modeling. Beyond this, the broader intellectual environment in the department offers great opportunities for students to draw on work spanning common disciplinary boundaries.