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COSC421 Neural Models of Language

Introduction to models of how human language is implemented in the brain, drawing on research in linguistics, psychology, neuroscience and computational modelling.

COSC 421 addresses one of the central questions in cognitive science: how language is implemented in the human brain. Answering this question draws on research in several disciplines: neuroscience, psychology, linguistics and computational modelling. The aim of the paper is to provide an accessible introduction to the relevant topics for students from each of these disciplines. The paper is unusual in that it includes students from several departments, each bringing a different perspective on the topic.

Paper title Neural Models of Language
Paper code COSC421
Subject Computer Science
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Not offered in 2022 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,371.61
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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NEUR 421

There are no formal prerequisites for the 400-level papers, but prior knowledge is assumed.


Computer Science Adviser,

Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator and Lecturer: to be advised.
Paper Structure

There are three parts to the paper:

  • Part 1: Models of the perception, execution and representation of reach-to-grasp actions (visual attention, object classification, visuomotor control, action recognition, working memory representations)
  • Part 2: Models of natural language syntax (Chomsky's Minimalism, construction grammar, statistical language models)
  • Part 3: Models of language acquisition in infants (phonological, lexical and syntactic development)

40% exam and 60% assignments, split as follows:

  • Assignment 1 - Phonological working memory 15%
  • Assignment 2 - Word forms 15%
  • Assignment 3 - Infant word-meaning learning 15%
  • Assignment 4 - Learning syntactic structures 15%
Teaching Arrangements
There is one 2-hour lecture per week.
A Knott: Sensorimotor Cognition and Natural Language Syntax (MIT Press)
Course outline
View the course outline for COSC 421
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Interdisciplinary perspective, Critical thinking.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
The main general skill students will acquire is an ability to make connections between different scientific disciplines that use different methodologies.

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Not offered in 2022

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system