This lecture, to the entire University community, celebrates Jeff's recognition as a Distinguished Scholar Teacher.
Wherever we find communities of human beings, we also find language. Moreover, cats, dogs and houseplants, despite living in the very same environment, all fail to display linguistic behavior. These basic observations suggest that language is unique to and definitional of our species. However, there is one population of ostensibly human creatures that is curiously silent when it comes to language, namely human infants. Might this mean that this distinctively human characteristic is absent from this population and hence that we shouldn’t think of children as human until they have acquired a language? In this talk, I discuss specific features of the human capacity for language and identify ways in which linguistic structure comes from the human mind. I further show that this structure plays a causal role in language acquisition throughout development and hence provides the basis of our humanity at all stages of life.
The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Program, established in 1978, honors a small number of faculty members each year who have demonstrated notable success in both scholarship and teaching. By honoring the Distinguished Scholar-Teachers with this prestigious award, we reaffirm our commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship.
The Distinguished Scholar-Teacher Program is sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and administered by the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs.