History and Goals
The Cognitive Science and Language programme has been offered by several Catalan universities since the academic year 1988-89. It was initiated by professors of the Universitat de Barcelona, the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, and the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, who, while working on different fields in Cognitive Science, had the opportunity to interact profitably in different ways, and regarded such interactions important for their successfully pursuing and their particular research interests. In recent years, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya stopped being part of the program, but then the Universitat Rovira i Virgili and the Universitat Pompeu Fabra were incorporated. Recently the Universitat de Girona has been incorporated also.
The research interests of the professors who have been contributing to the program focus on various aspects of natural language, on issues such as its computational processing, its psychological and neurological underpinnings, its grammar and its philosophy. Most of them have made in the ensuing years significant contributions to their fields, measured by the usual scientific criteria. The program has already trained a good number of young researchers, who are also beginning to make important contributions to their respective fields, and in some cases have become in their turn professors involved in the program.
The program has been inviting professors from other univerties, including some of the most prestigious in the different areas of study within Cognitive Science. Among them: Kathleen Akins (Simon Fraser University), José Luis Bermúdez (Stirling University), Ned Block (New York University), Susan Carey (Harvard University), Michael Kenstowicz (MIT), David Chalmers (Arizona), Gennaro Chierchia (Milano), Martin Davies (Australian National University), Almerindo Ojeda (U.C. Davis), Brenda Rapp (John Hopkins), Sabine Iatridou (MIT), Ernesto Sosa (Brown University), Adèle Mercier (Queen's University), and Andrea Moro (University San Raffaele in Milan).
This enlarged teaching program has so far been made possible by financial support coming from the grants for "Quality" doctorate programs of the Spanish Government Ministry of Education, which the program has been receiving without interruption since they were first offered in 1995, and from the Catalan Government.
The program is motivated by the need of interaction among different fields in Cognitive Science, specifically, on various aspects of natural language, on issues such as its computational processing, its psychological and neurological underpinnings, its grammar and its philosophy.
The goals of the program are those that define Cognitive Science, or Cognitive Neuroscience, as it is more commonly known nowadays. This is not a new discipline requiring new specialists; thus, the goal of the program is not to train researchers on a new, emerging field. Rather, research on the psychological, computational, linguistic or philosophical aspects of natural language is a well-established tradition which can only be carried out by specialists well-trained in each one of the subjects's techniques and theoretical assumptions (in fact, of even more specific areas inside them). Acquiring a proficient level in one of them is, perhaps unfortunately, incompatible with acquiring it on all the others. The main idea behind Cognitive Science is thus that a good understanding of linguistic phenomena can only be achieved through particular contributions from all these interacting disciplines; because of this, research on any one of them will necessarily benefit from a good knowledge (if not at the level of the specialist, at least at that of a sophisticated, motivated amateur) of the others ongoing contributions. It thus seems convenient that, during their formal academic training, potential future contributors to those disciplines acquire the basic elements to make it later easier to acquire such interdisciplinary knowledge.
Students who take the program are supposed to have already a good knowledge of their own incoming disciplines (most commonly, philosophy, psychology and linguistics, but also mathematics, medicine and education), The program then offers some subjects designed to lead such mature, knowledgeable and motivated students to acquire a good mastery of some of the techniques and theoretical assumptions of the other disciplines, while at the same time offering also enough subjects in their own disciplines to properly continue their education and further specialization.