An examination of how words capture human experience will take place at Lehigh University in early June, when the university’s psychology department hosts a two-day conference. Titled “Words and the World,” the conference will feature a roster of speakers internationally renowned for their work in the areas of cognitive psychology, linguistics, anthropology, and child development.
Participants will discuss where languages are similar and where they diverge with respect to the components of meanings that they regularly encode, and what these similarities and differences reveal about human cognition and how languages construct meaning.
“These questions have long been of interest to psychologists, linguists, and anthropologists, but only recently has the integration of knowledge and methodologies necessary for real progress taken place,” says Barbara Malt, professor of psychology at Lehigh, department chair, co-organizer and presenter at the conference.
The conference will bring together researchers who have conducted research on the nature of word meanings in domains of human experience -- including space, motion, color, and objects -- to discuss how words capture meaning across languages and the broader implications for the language-thought interface.
Phil Wolff, co-organizer and assistant professor of psychology at Emory University, is enthusiastic about the potential for new issues to be raised by those in attendance. “I’m hoping there will be a dark horse, so to speak,” Wolff said. “That someone will raise an issue that’s really new.”
The conference is sponsored by the National Science Foundation, with additional support from Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences, the vice provost for research and the psychology department.
Invited speakers include Juergen Bohnemeyer of the University at Buffalo; Lera Boroditsky of Stanford University; Eve V. Clark of Stanford University; Dedre Gentner of Northwestern University; Cliff Goddard of The University of New England; Roberta Golinkoff of the University of Delaware; Peter Gordon of the Teachers College of Columbia University: Kathy Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University; Mutsumi Imai of Keio University at Shonan Fujisawa; John Lucy of the University of Chicago; Asifa Majid of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics; Terry Regier of the University of Chicago; Debi Roberson of the University of Essex; and Ann Senghas of Barnard College of Columbia University.
Co-organizers Malt and Wolff will present a talk on “Physics and the Language of Cause and Locomotion.”
For more information, please visit the conference website or call the Lehigh University Department of Psychology at 610-758-5073.