Professor of Linguistics
His original training was in linguistics, and his early research and publication was in phonology, the study of the sound systems of human languages. He later turned his attention to the evolution of speech and language, and his research and teaching focus is now on the comparative study of vocalization, cognition, and behavior in non-human animals.
Currently he is working on the vocal behavior of domesticated animals, especially sheep. Much of his field research has been conducted in the west of Ireland with free-ranging hill sheep. He works as well with livestock at the Hampshire College Farm Center. He has also studied domestic dogs and wild canids such as the New Guinea Singing Dog, and he is now engaged in a research project on the structure of song in robins.
He is deeply interested in the general theory of evolution, and also hopes to learn more about the brain; computational modeling of evolution and cognition; molecular biology; environmental science; and sustainable agriculture. His work has been published in journals ranging from Linguistic Inquiry to the Journal of Zoology.
He is also a co-author, with several Hampshire colleagues, of the first cognitive science textbook for undergraduates, and his work has been presented to a wide range of professional and general audiences.
Mark's teaching areas include bioacoustics, animal communication, general animal behavior, linguistic theory, language change, biological evolution, and general cognitive science.
This course surveys the main theoretical ideas in ethology, the scientific study of animal behavior. We explore the physiological, developmental, functional and evolutionary bases of behavior as well as related issues in the study of cognition. The main reading and discussion material for the course is drawn from journal articles in the professional scientific literature; students are also expected to read John Alcock's standard textbook, Animal Behavior. Two summary/critique papers on the journal articles will be required, along with a report on a public lecture relevant to the themes of the course, and a full-length paper on a species and research topic of the student's choosing. The final project will also be presented to the whole class either orally or in a poster session.
This reading seminar is recommended for all concentrators and advanced students in cognitive science, regardless of discipline. Students with a background in psychology, philosophy, linguistics, computer science, neuroscience, animal behavior, education, new information technologies etc., are all welcome. Each week we will examine one current issue in cognitive science, drawing on recent journal articles and essays. We will seek to make the issues comprehensible across disciplinary divides and to highlight potential areas for interdisciplinary collaboration. Students are expected to engage in intensive discussions during the single weekly meeting, to write a brief reaction paper each week, and to produce an extended written discussion of one of the issues by the end of the term. The class meets once a week for two hours and 50 minutes. Prerequisite: This Concentrators' seminar requires previous coursework in any discipline of cognitive science.
This course is concerned with the hands-on study of animal behavior (and cognition) in the field. Taking advantage of varied habitats in the vicinity of the college - primarily our own fields and woodlands at Hampshire College, but also the Holyoke range, the Quabbin reservoir, the Berkshire hills and elsewhere - we will learn techniques for observing, recording, describing, measuring and analyzing the behavior of some local (primarily mammalian) species, including coyotes, deer, moose, black bear and fishers. Students will collect and analyze data and submit a final written report on one species of their choosing, and should be prepared to spend a lot of time outdoors. Prerequisite: prior coursework in animal behavior.
Whether other animals have minds that are anything like ours is a problem that has long excited (and challenged) scientists and philosophers. This course will be a reading seminar in which we examine an array of difficult questions about the cognitive abilities of non-human animals: Is consciousness a uniquely human property? Can other animals hold beliefs? Can they represent concepts (and what is a concept, anyway)? Do animals acquire "knowledge?" How might it be related to the kind of justification or understanding that is a requirement when we say that a human knows something? Do animals experience emotions? How are animal communication systems like - or unlike - human languages? What are the similarities and differences between human and animal perceptual systems? In attempting to address these and other issues, we will read and discuss material from the professional literature in a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, animal behavior and genetics and evolutionary biology. Prerequisite: Prior coursework in animal behavior, philosophy, cognitive science, or biology.