Events login

Main Events Calendar

Warning Icon This event is in the past.
January 23, 2020 | 12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Category: Lecture
Location: Faculty/Administration #2339 | Map
656 W. Kirby
Detroit, MI 48202
Cost: Free
Audience: Academic Staff, Alumni, Community, Current Undergraduate Students, Faculty, Parents, Prospective Students, Staff

The Humanities Center is proud to present as part of its Brown Bag Series, a talk by Natalia Rakhlin, English/Linguistics, Associate Professor



Humans, even in infancy, possess non-verbal means for mental computations that involve reasoning about concrete objects and events directly accessible to sensory experience. These capacities are not unique to our species. However, unlike other species, (adult) humans are also capable of reasoning about “psychologically distant” objects and events (i.e., those beyond direct sensory access). While such reasoning may be possible without language, it would be at best slow, imprecise, and inconsistent. The capacity to reason about psychologically distant objects emerges gradually, but the earliest elements of this ability appear around the same age as the onset of combinatorial language.
I will present an argument for a close link between linguistic and cognitive development using convergent findings from child language acquisition and cognitive development. I will introduce a gradualist theory of the acquisition of clausal structure (Rakhlin & Progovac, 2017) and show how the steps in the development of the layers of the syntactic hierarchy align with (and arguably pave the way for) cognitive milestones documented in developmental research. According to this view, the emergent layers of syntactic structure augment children’s non-verbal representations allowing children to go beyond their innate “core knowledge” systems and non-linguistic processing mechanisms (sensory-perceptual and affective). This expansion provides representational means for representing information about hidden causes, others’ desires and beliefs, distant past (or future) and counterfactual situations.

These talks are free and open to the public! We also provide free coffee, tea and cake!

For more information about this event, please contact Humanities Center at 313-577-5471 or