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 is an advanced reading seminar exploring a broad range of topics of interest to the collaborating disciplines of cognitive science. Each week, in a three-hour session, participants will choose to read and discuss a paper (or set of papers) from the professional literature in various fields, including animal behavior & cognition, artificial intelligence, cognitive and developmental psychology, linguistics, philosophy, neuropsychology and neuroscience. In previous seminars our free-ranging discussions addressed issues including the possibility of machine intelligence and sentience; language-like capabilities in primates and canids; the nature and psychology of morality; evolution of the mind; autism; complexity theory; and consciousness. Students are expected to submit written responses to each of the readings (and to each other's comments) in an online discussion forum, and to write a final paper on a topic of their choosing. This course is only open to advanced Division II and Division III students
Linguistic fieldwork - collecting primary data by collaborating with a native speaker of a language - is a critical step in generating and testing hypotheses about the language's structure and properties. In this "hands-on" class we'll explore techniques for eliciting data, methods of recording and organizing information, developing a good working relationship with the informant, and thinking about the fit between primary data and the general theory of language. The target language will be unfamiliar to students and instructor alike. Half our time will be spent collecting and recording data, and half will be devoted to thinking about and analyzing our material. In addition to in-class sessions, students will be expected to meet with the informant individually (or in small groups) outside class time, to pursue topics of special interest that will be the basis of a final report. Participants are expected to have a background in linguistics or related fields, and familiarity with phonetic transcription (or the willingness to acquire it quickly).
This is the first of a two-course sequence exploring the main theoretical ideas and methods of ethology, the scientific study of animal behavior. In this first semester we explore the functional and evolutionary bases of animal behavior and cognition, exploring topics such as social behavior, foraging, territoriality and communication. Students will also learn and put into practice some of the ways that ethologists observe, record and measure behavior outdoors in the natural world. The main reading and discussion material for the course will be drawn from the first half of John Alcock's textbook, Animal Behavior, supplemented by journal articles from the professional scientific literature. Several summary/critique papers on the journal articles will be required, and a full-length term paper on a species and research topic of the student's choosing. The final project will be presented to the whole class either orally or in a poster session. Subsequent enrollment in the second semester of the sequence is encouraged but not required.
Do non-human animals have minds? If so, are they anything like human minds? Can animals plan, remember, solve new problems, or experience emotions? Is animal communication similar to human language? In this course we explore cognition and behavior in a wide variety of species -- crows, sheep, chimpanzees, honeybees, dolphins, octopuses and more -- from the joint perspectives of cognitive science, animal behavior and evolutionary biology, and linguistics. We will read papers from the professional scientific literature (and the popular media); students will submit a series of written assignments (article summaries and critical discussions) as well as a final written report and oral presentation on a topic relating to some aspect of cognition in a species of their choosing.