Mark H. Feinstein, professor of linguistics, holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York (1977).
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 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.
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.
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.
Nothing in life is more important than food. But billions of people don't have enough, the way we grow food poses dramatic challenges to the environment, and our collective health and quality of life are in the balance. This course will take a critical multidisciplinary look at the past, present and future of food, farming and eating. Are our current food sources sustainable? What are the ecological impacts of production? What will be the impact of climate change? Can we find new plant and animal species that will enhance our food 'security'? Is genetic modification of food really a bad idea? In what ways might alternative production systems, such as small scale, local and organic farms provide more sustainable solutions? Could the globalization of technology and information change the way we farm? How can education about diet and nutrition affect our behavior? How many farms and how many farmers? Class will meet twice per week for lectures, discussions, small group work and projects.
Domesticated animals - agricultural livestock such as sheep, cattle, pigs, and chickens as well as companion animals like dogs and cats - are of deep importance to human society. The primary focus of the course is on how domestication shapes the mental and behavioral characteristics of these animals. We also explore related issues in human-animal interaction, animal welfare, and agricultural practice. Learning, socialization, biological development, and evolution are central themes; in addition, we undertake some comparative discussion of the wild counterparts of domesticated animals, explore the nature of feralization, and look at cases (like elephants), which raise questions about how domestication is defined. Primarily a reading and discussion seminar, we engage with several dozen papers from the professional scientific literature, and, for their final project students are expected to grapple with a question of their own choosing in the form of a literature review, a critique of published work, or a study or proposal for a study of their own. Prerequisite: Prior work in the biological and/or cognitive sciences
Half of the world's six thousand or so languages are likely to disappear forever in the next few decades. This would be a reduction of human diversity on a scale equaling the most dramatic biological extinctions. Can it be stopped? Should it? In this course, students learn enough linguistics to understand why many linguists regard the impending death of so many languages as a scientific catastrophe, and we explore a range of issues in linguistic, cultural, and biological evolution. A central feature of the course is the introductory study of Irish (Gaeilge), spoken by millions in Ireland just a few centuries ago. Now, with no more than fifty thousand native speakers, this Celtic language faces its possible demise. We also examine contemporary political, cultural, and educational efforts to maintain Irish and save it from extinction. Students are expected to complete several written assignments, and to present a final project on the structure and sociolinguistic status of an endangered language of their choosing.
Professor of Linguistics
Mail Code CS
Adele Simmons Hall 206
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002