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University College for Interdisciplinary Learning

Language, Mind and Brain

Course Unit Code


Course Unit Details

  • Level 1
  • 20 Credits
  • School of Arts, Languages and Cultures


How do young children acquire language so easily? How is human language different from non-human animal communication systems? What are the similarities and differences between signed and spoken languages? Can the language you speak influence how you see colours? This unit addresses these questions and more, exploring the cognitive underpinnings of human language.

Along the way we'll examine evidence from babies, chimpanzees and other animals, the birth of new languages, perceptual illusions, strokes and other brain injuries, intoxicated speech, swearing, and modern brain imaging techniques. We'll also take a look at the social and historical contexts in which our ideas about language and cognition have evolved, examining the role of factors such as colonialism and ablelism in shaping the field.


The unit introduces students to the foundational concepts in the study of language from the perspective of cognitive science. We will explore questions that are still a matter of debate in the field, critically evaluating both evidence and arguments. Students will come away with a deeper understanding of how language works, some of the principles governing the complex interactions between language and other cognitive dimensions (such as attention, perception, and thought), and a basic understanding of how language functions in the brain.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • Distinguish the differences and similarities between language and other communication systems
  • Evaluate the role of the brain in developing and employing language, including key arguments surrounding issues such as modularity of mind
  • Critically assess scholarly and scientific claims from the literature, and the arguments supporting them
  • Engage in interdisciplinary group discussions to compare competing approaches and hypotheses, using evidence-based reasoning
  • Research and prepare coherent written communications


Topics covered in previous years:

  • Language as an Instinct
  • Child Language Development
  • Human Language vs. Animal Communication
  • Language and Cognition
  • Language in Use: Production and Perception
  • Signed Languages
  • Modularity of Mind
  • Functional Localisation
  • Brain Imaging
  • Language and Neurodiversity


  1. Example argument paragraph (formative)
  2. 500 word written exercise (30%)
  3. 1000 word written exercise (50%)
  4. Quizzes (10%)
  5. Engagement/reflection (10%)


No prior study in psychology or linguistics is assumed.

UCIL units are designed to be accessible to undergraduate students from all disciplines.

UCIL units are credit-bearing and it is not possible to audit UCIL units or take them for additional/extra credits. You must enrol following the standard procedure for your School when adding units outside of your home School.

If you are not sure if you are able to enrol on UCIL units you should contact your School Undergraduate office. You may wish to contact your programme director if your programme does not currently allow you to take a UCIL unit.

You can also contact the UCIL office if you have any questions.

This unit is also available with a different course unit code. To take a UCIL unit you must choose the unit with a UCIL prefix.

Teaching Staff

Wendell Kimper

Teaching and Learning Methods

  • 11 x 2 hr face-to-face lectures
  • 11 x 1 hr face-to-face seminars
  • Quizzes
  • Discussion Forum Participation


I would recommend UCIL to anyone who's curious to explore topics related to their program or interests, that may not be 'traditionally' offered. 'Language, Mind and Brain' is one of the most holistically relevant units I have taken throughout my degree.Maria Lambert, Biology with Science and Society

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