Utrecht Theoretical Linguistics


20 April 2023
15:30 - 17:00
Utrecht University / Microsoft Teams

EMLAR talk: Wolfram Hinzen

Wolfram Hinzen (U Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) will give a keynote talk within EMLAR 2023. The talk will be entitled Language function as a privileged window into cognitive change and decline. Registration is required. Attendance is free for ILS members.

More information on the EMLAR webpage.


Language function as a privileged window into cognitive change and decline

Hundreds of neurodevelopmental disorders, all major adult-onset psychiatric disorders, and all neurodegenerative diseases, present with cognitive impairments across multiple cognitive domains and involve language dysfunction, often at a severe end. These language changes carry huge clinical significance for diagnosis and prognosis in such cases as autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease, and I will review evidence for believing that, in this respect, natural language processing combined with machine learning may revolutionize clinical practice. Yet, going beyond clinical applications, how much information about the underlying pathophysiological processes and mechanisms can we glean from language function, and what theoretical insights for the organization of cognition as a whole does it carry? In this regard I will discuss new evidence to suggest that the language changes in question reflect alterations in the large-scale hierarchical organization of cognition as a whole, turning language function into an intrinsic aspect of that organization rather than a separable construct. This new perspective envisions that language is not a cognitive system identifiable as a specific network in the brain, but a way in which functional networks in the brain are organized hierarchically and in relation to each other, so as to enable higher cognitive functions.