Language and Cognition
A central research focus in linguistics at Berkeley is the relation of language and cognition. For decades, research in this department and others at Berkeley has been influential in explaining linguistic phenomena in cognitive terms, and cognitive phenomena in linguistic terms. Berkeley PhDs in this area have obtained positions at some of the best universities in the US and abroad.
Current research on language and cognition in the department extends this tradition, with innovative work ranging from the observational to the experimental to the computational, from signed to spoken modalities of language, and from the structure of speech to social and political thought.
George Lakoff explores conceptual systems as revealed by language, particularly metaphor, and the application of cognitive linguistics to politics, literature, and other fields. Eve Sweetser investigates cognitive linguistics often from a historical perspective, with interests in metaphor and iconicity, subjectivity and viewpoint, and the relationship between language and gesture. Terry Regier explores the relation of language and thought, asking why languages have the semantic categories they do, and whether and how those categories affect thought. Susanne Gahl investigates the relations among usage, grammar, and language processing, drawing on psycholinguistics and corpus linguistics. Keith Johnson studies the role of linguistic experience and cross-language regularities in speech perception, and the socio-phonetics of personal identity.
Cross-cutting interests include categorization, the centrality of usage, language in context, the influence of language on thought, and universals in meaning and sound.