Music, Language, and Cognition

University of California, Merced
COGS 149: Music, Language, and Cognition
Fall 2020

Lecturer: Adam M. Croom, Ph.D.
Teaching Assistant: Benny Nguyen, Ph.D. student

My Office Hours: By appointment on Zoom

Lectures: Mondays and Wednesdays, 7:30 pm – 8:45 pm, on Zoom

Course Description: Humans from all time periods and cultures have played music and used language, but why do all humans engage in these two kinds of complex behaviors? Do music and language play important roles in our individual cognitions and our social interactions, and if so, in what ways? What relationships exist between music and language perception, processing, and action? And what does the study of music and language reveal about the unique nature of human mental and social life? Questions such as these have fascinated philosophers for thousands of years and continue to excite cognitive scientists and other scholars to this day. The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the landscape of contemporary research on music and language, especially from an embodied perspective in cognitive science. To this end, we will focus primarily on recent work from cognitive science on music and language, while also situating this work within the context of other important empirical, theoretical, and artistic work. Throughout this course we will study a range of interesting topics about music and language, using each topic to explore the similarities and differences that exist between musical and linguistic domains. In the music-focused section of this course we will cover topics such as music and human evolution, pitch and timbre, musical syntax, rhythm and syncopation, music and social interaction, musical development, musical disorders, music and psychological well-being, and music and embodied cognition. In the language-focused section of this course we will cover topics such as language and human evolution, phonetics and phonology, morphology and syntax, semantics and pragmatics, multilingualism, writing systems, linguistic development, linguistic disorders, and language and embodied cognition. By completing this course students will gain insight into one of the most fascinating areas of research in cognitive science today and will develop a better understanding of the important roles that music and language play in our uniquely human mental and social life.

Outcomes: Upon completion of this course students will have developed their understanding of cognitive science by reading important articles and watching new lectures about music and language cognition. Students will have also gained experience doing research on two topics of their choice and preparing two 20 minute presentations. Students will complete short activities every class utilizing a variety of active learning techniques, and frequent opportunities will be provided to work with partners and in small groups.

Required Reading: The readings will be available for you on CatCourses.

Assignment Submissions: Submit your assignments by uploading them directly onto CatCourses.

Grading Procedures: Your grade for this course will be based on your performance on regular activities (50%) and two 20 minute teach backs over Zoom (25% each). Your two teach back assignments will focus on two different topics, so for example, your first teach back can focus on a topic about music and your second teach back can focus on a topic about language. A grading rubric will be provided with your assignments.

Academic Integrity: Each student must abide by the Academic Honesty Policy at the University of California, Merced. You must do all of your own work on homework assignments, projects, and exams, and copying is never allowed. Violations of academic integrity will result in disciplinary action.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: The University of California is committed to ensuring equal opportunities and inclusion for students with disabilities based on the principles of independent living, accessible universal design, and diversity. The University of California requests for academic accommodations to be made during the first three weeks of the semester, except for unusual circumstances, and students are encouraged to register with the Disability Services Center to verify their eligibility for appropriate accommodations. I am available to discuss appropriate academic accommodations that may be required for students with disabilities, so if you have any questions about this please feel free to ask.

Additional Remarks: This syllabus is tentative and subject to change so stay tuned for updates. To create an optimal learning environment computers can only be used for class exercises and notes (no gaming or social media, etc.) and no audio or video recordings are allowed in class. If you have any questions or want to talk more about the course, majoring in cognitive science, or your future career, I encourage you to visit me during office hours for a chat. I value your contributions in class and look forward to seeing you develop this semester.

Schedule Overview

  • Lecture 1: Wednesday, August 26, 2020. Introduction to Music, Language, and Cognition.
  • Lecture 2: Monday, August 31, 2020. Five Terms in Search of a Synthesis.
  • Lecture 3: Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Music and Dance Among the BaYaka Pygmies.
  • Labor Day Holiday: Monday, September 7, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 4: Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Shared Meaning, Mirroring, and Joint Action.
  • Lecture 5: Monday, September 14, 2020. Emotion in Action, Interaction, Music, and Speech.
  • Lecture 6: Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Neural Correlates of Music Perception.
  • Lecture 7: Monday, September 21, 2020. Film Music and the Unfolding Narrative.
  • Lecture 8: Wednesday, September 23, 2020. Semantics of Internal and External Worlds.
  • Lecture 9: Monday, September 28, 2020. The Infrastructure of the Language-Ready Brain.
  • Lecture 10: Wednesday, September 30, 2020. Musical Syntax and Its Relation to Linguistic Syntax.
  • Lecture 11: Monday, October 5, 2020. An Integrated View of Phonetics, Phonology, and Prosody.
  • Lecture 12: Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Multiple Levels of Structure in Language and Music.
  • Lecture 13: Monday, October 12, 2020. Neural Mechanisms of Music, Singing, and Dancing.
  • Lecture 14: Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Shared and Distinct Brain Resources for Language and Music.
  • Lecture 15: Monday, October 19, 2020. Action, Language, and Music.
  • Lecture 16: Wednesday, October 21, 2020. Computational Modeling of Mind and Music.
  • Lecture 17: Monday, October 26, 2020. The Neurobiology of Language, Speech, and Music.
  • Lecture 18: Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Communication, Music, and Language in Infancy.
  • Lecture 19: Monday, November 2, 2020. Evolving the Language- and Music-Ready Brain.
  • Lecture 20: Wednesday, November 4, 2020. Birdsong and Animal Models for Vocal Learning.
  • Lecture 21: Monday, November 9 2020. Culture and Evolution.
  • Veterans Day: Wednesday, November 11, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 22: Monday, November 16, 2020. Music and Language: Anthropological Perspectives.
  • Lecture 23: Wednesday, November 19, 2020. Grounding Language in Action.
  • Lecture 24: Monday, November 23, 2020. Movement is Part of the Meaning of Music Notation.
  • Non-Instructional Day: Wednesday, November 25, 2020. No Lecture.
  • Lecture 25: Monday, November 30, 2020. Music Genre-Dependent Behavioral and EEG Signatures of Action.
  • Lecture 26: Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Neural Substrates of Jazz Improvisation.
  • Lecture 27: Monday, December 7, 2020. Embodied Mind, Situated Cognition, and Expressive Microtiming.
  • Lecture 28: Wednesday, December 9, 2020. Music Practice and Participation for Psychological Well-Being.
  • First Teach Back: Your first teach back assignment is due by midnight on Sunday, October 18, 2020.
  • Final Teach Back: Your second teach back assignment is due by midnight on Thursday, December 17, 2020.