Courses » Language and Mind

Language and Mind

Language learning can be put under three broad perspectives. Some believe language is pairing of lexicon and syntax i.e. of words and the set of rules that defines how we can combine those words most fundamental of these rules are innate i.e. they are already there in the human mind before it is exposed to society. This means there is perhaps an innate Language Faculty. Still others believe that General Cognitive Abilities that account for other kinds of learning can also account for language. There are many others who strongly believe that language is essentially socially embedded and that all learning takes place through social interactions. This course will briefly account for the most convincing position and will argue for it from generative perspective and biological foundations of language. Throughout the course we will try to be familiar with relationship between language and human mind; to understand language as a special purpose cognitive ability; and to understand underlying mental computation for natural language processing.

Anyone interested in the topic.



Rajesh Kumar PhD (Illinois)
Associate Professor
Office: HSB 345
I I T Madras
Chennai - 600036.
Phone : +91 (44) 2257 4537


Week One- On Language
 What is Language?
What is scientific about language?
How is language constitutive of being human?
Distinction between human and non-human language
Origin of language
What is the relationship between language and mind?
How do children acquire language?
Nature of learning language
Generative foundation of language acquisition
Biological foundation of Language
Language acquisition device
Universal grammar

Week Two- Language in Mind
Acquisition and/or learning
I-language and Innateness
Patterns – Universal Grammar
Human Brain
Language deficit/ loss

Week Three- Patterns in sounds and words
Places and manners of articulation
Features of sounds

Week Four- Words and sentences
Constraints of patterns in words
Cluster as constraints

Week Five- Grammar
Parts of sentences
Subjects/ Predicates
Lexical categories
Functional categories
Nature of verbs

Week Six- Advanced Grammar
Complement/ adjunct
Semantic relations

Week Seven- Levels of representation and principles of grammar
Motivation for the movement
Complementizer phrase
Case assignment
Passive morphology and NP movement
D structure
Binding theory
Indices and antecedents

Week Eight- On language and mind
Compound verb
Language and Cognition
Goal of cognitive sciences
Computational linguistics- goals, breakthroughs and challenges
Language and mind

Certification Exam

The exam is optional. Exam will be on 26 March 2017.
Time: Shift 1: 9am-12 noon; Shift 2: 2pm-5pm

Registration url: Announcements will be made when the registration form is open for registrations.

The online registration form has to be filled and the certification exam needs to be paid.


  • Final score will be calculated as : 25% assignment score + 75% final exam score.
  • 25% assignment score is calculated as 25% of average of Best 6 out of 8 assignments.
  • E-Certificate will be given to those who register and write the exam and score greater than or equal to 40% final score. Certificate will have your name, photograph and the score in the final exam with the breakup. It will have the logos of NPTEL and Indian Institute of Technology,Madras. It will be e-verifiable at nptel.ac.in/noc.


Chomsky, N. (2006). Language and Mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Harris, C.L. (2003). ‘Language and cognition’. Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. London: MacMillan.
Hauser, M.D., Chomsky, N., and Fitch, W.T. (2002). ‘Faculty of language: What is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?’ Science, 298, 1569-1579.
Jackendoff, R. (1993). Patterns in human mind. New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Jackendoff, R. (2014). ‘How did language begin?’ Retrieved from http://www.linguisticsociety.org/files/LanguageBegin.pdf
Pinker, S. and Jackendoff, R. (2004). ‘The faculty of language: What’s special about it?’ Cognition, 95, 201-236.
Pool, G. (2011). Syntactic theory (2 ed). London/New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Teaching Assistants

Tanima Bagchi, IIT Madras
Thapasya J, IIT Madras