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You are cordially invited to the 8th annual

Marshall M. Weinberg Symposium

March 31st & April 1st, 2017

The Marshall M. Weinberg Symposium is an annual interdisciplinary event that focuses on topics within cognitive science. The symposium emphasizes interdisciplinary activities and aims to foster fruitful and lasting interactions among philosophers, psychologists, linguists, and other cognitive scientists. 


Guest Speakers & Presentation Information

Noam Chomsky - Institute Professor (retired), Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Galilean Challenge: Architecture and Evolution of Language

In the early days of the modern scientific revolution, Galileo and his contemporaries issued a crucial challenge to those concerned with the nature of human language: to show how from a few sounds we can construct “an infinite variety of expressions [that] reveal all of the secrets of the mind.” By the mid-20th century, it became possible for the first time to address at least parts of the challenge.  What has been learned since gives considerable insight into the nature of language and how it might have evolved.

Speaker Bio:

Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his PhD in linguistics in 1955 from the University of Pennsylvania. During the years 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows. The major theoretical viewpoints of his doctoral dissertation appeared in the monograph Syntactic Structures, 1957. This formed part of a more extensive work, The Logical Structure of Linguistic Theory, circulated in mimeograph in 1955 and published in 1975.

Chomsky joined the staff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 and in 1961 was appointed full professor. In 1976 he was appointed Institute Professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.

Chomsky has lectured at many universities here and abroad, and is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards. He has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. Among his more recent books are, The Fateful Triangle; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; On Nature and Language; The Essential Chomsky; Hopes and Prospects; Gaza in Crisis; How the World Works; 9-11: Was There an Alternative; Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire, and Resistance; The Science of Language; Peace with Justice: Noam Chomsky in Australia; Power Systems; On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare (with Andre Vltchek); Democracy and Power: The Delhi Lectures; Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures; On Palestine (with Ilan Pappe); Because We Say So; What Kind of Creatures Are We?; Why Only Us?: Language and Evolution (with Bob Berwick); and Who Rules the World?

Lila Gleitman - Professor Emerita of Psychology and Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day but Perhaps Latin Was

If language evolved over eons in the prehistory of humankind, this has left no trace in the fossil record until the dawn of writing only a few millennia ago. Yet arguably each modern child embodies in a few short years of life, how language grows out of the human urge to communicate. This constructive “inside out” aspect of language acquisition is dramatized in cases where the availability of input information is curtailed or altogether absent. I discuss   blind children who re-tailor language to fit their perceptual needs, and language-isolated deaf children who build language from scratch with little aid from the surrounding world of hearing adults.

Speaker Bio:

Lila Gleitman was born in Brooklyn, New York. in 1929. She studied literature at Antioch College and received the PhD in Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania under the direction of Z. S. Harris. She taught at Swarthmore College for several years and then returned to the University of Pennsylvania as co-director of the Institute for Research in Cognitive Science and Professor of Psychology. She is the recipient of many awards and prizes, most recently including the forthcoming Rumelhart Prize in Cognitive Science (2017).

Her research has centered on the structure of the mental lexicon and the acquisition of language by infants and young children. In her most widely known work --  with Barbara Landau and Susan Goldin-Meadow --  she has studied language learning in infants deprived of normal input information owing to blindness or deafness. This research led her and colleagues to a broad theory of lexical learning whose first stage is an essentially one-trial word-to-world procedure known as “propose but verify” with John Trueswell. Gleitman then studied the second stage, a structure-to-world procedure that is known as “syntactic bootstrapping” with Landau and several other collaborators.   Recent studies include computational modeling of early vocabulary growth  (The Pursuit of Word Meaning  with Jon Stevens, Charles Yang, and John Trueswell) and the acquisition of abstract words (When We Think About Thinking and Hard Words with John C. Trueswell,  Anna Papafragou, Rebecca Nappa, and Kimberly Cassidy).


Paul M. Pietroski - Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, University of Maryland

Meaning Internalism and Natural History

Human children naturally acquire languages that connect meanings with pronunciations. It is often assumed that these meanings are essentially connected to truth, referents, and communication. I’ll argue that a more internalistic conception of meanings -- as instructions for how to access and assemble concepts of a special sort -- is more plausible, and that generating meaningful linguistic expressions could well have been useful, intrapersonally, before any of our primate ancestors could pronounce these expressions.

Speaker Bio:

Pietroski’s research addresses questions concerning linguistic meaning and how it is related to human thought: what are word meanings; how are they related to concepts and our capacity to understand complex expressions; and how is this remarkable capacity acquired? He is the author of three books and numerous articles on topics that span philosophy, linguistics, and psychology. After receiving his B.A. from Rutgers and his Ph.D. from MIT, Pietroski taught at McGill University before moving to Maryland, where he is a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. He has held visiting positions at Harvard and the École Normale. In the fall of 2017, he will return to Rutgers as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science.


U-M Faculty Panel

Susan A. Gelman - Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Linguistics

Susan A. Gelman received her B.A. in Psychology and Classical Greek from Oberlin College, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University.  Susan studies concepts and language in young children.  She is the author of over 200 scholarly publications, including a prize-winning monograph, The Essential Child (Oxford University Press, 2003). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science, the American Psychological Association (Division 7), and the Cognitive Science Society.  She has served as President of the Cognitive Development Society, review panelist for NIH, NSF, and the Ford Foundation, and board member of several scientific societies. Her honors include a J. S. Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Psychological Association Distinguished Scientific Award for Early Career Contribution to Psychology, and the Developmental Psychology Mentor Award of the American Psychological Association.

Ezra Keshet - Associate Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Linguistics

Ezra Keshet has taught at the University of Michigan since 2008 in the Linguistics Department, where he currently serves as Director of Undergraduate Studies. Since 2012, he has also held a courtesy appointment in the Philosophy Department. He holds degrees from MIT (PhD) and Harvard University (AB, AM) in Linguistics.

Professor Keshet chiefly works on theoretical semantics, the formal study of meaning in language. A major portion of his research addresses intensionality, or how language encodes ideas about times and situations different from the here and now. An additional major research topic is linguistic focus, or how emphasizing different parts of an utterance can alter its structure and meaning. Other areas of interest include conditional conjunctions (e.g., Take another step and I'll shoot!) and the meanings of pronouns, including work in dynamic semantics.

Richard Lewis - John R. Anderson Collegiate Professor of Psychology, Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Richard Lewis is a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University with Allen Newell, followed by a McDonnell Fellowship in Psychology at Princeton University, and a faculty position in Computer Science at Ohio State. His research interests include psycholinguistics, reinforcement learning and decision making, and computational rationality.  He was elected a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science in 2010, and in 2014 helped establish a multidisciplinary undergraduate major in Cognitive Science at Michigan, as part of the new Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science.

Visitor Information

Please see the links below for information regarding the Michigan Union, Rackham Auditorium, parking, and maps.