Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Knowledge and Culture

Morality, mathematics, geometry, geography, music, navigation, and language are traditionally viewed as uniquely human cultural achievements and abilities. The study of their development and variation is classified as part of the humanities and social sciences. These fields have been mainly studied as unbounded properties of culture and nurture, rather than as the result of the interaction between core knowledge systems and language. However, by considering these disciplines in terms of core knoledge systems, scholars in the humanities and social sciences are challenged to ask how cultural achievements and uniquely human abilities may be determined by innate systems.

2013 - 2017
Johan Rooryck
NWO Horizon grant NWO Horizon grant

This research program can be divided into three major questions:

a. How do core knowledge systems constrain cultural diversity? How is cultural knowledge built on core knowledge systems? 

b. How do core knowledge systems interact with species-specific, uniquely human, cognitive abilities such as the faculty of language and the faculty of music? 

c. How do the uniquely human innate abilities of music and language interact? What are the implications of this interaction for core knowledge?

The Horizon research program is subdivided into four subprojects:

a. Music cognition, language, and core knowledge systems 

b. Language and the core knowledge system of number 

c. The visual arts and the core knowledge system of geometry 

d. Poetry, rhythm, and meter

The proposed research program will consist of four small teams, each composed of a Postdoc and a PhD researcher, addressing the four themes of music cognition, language and number, the visual arts and geometry and poetry, rhythm, and meter. Each team will be actively supervised by a combination of the applicants participating in the program. The complete crew for this Horizon-Program will  therefore consist of 4 postdoctoral researchers and 4 PhD students. In each subproject, the PhD researcher will mostly concentrate on experimental and data-related aspects of the project, while the Postdoc researcher will address the more theoretical aspects of the project, co-supervise the PhD researcher, and collaborate with the other Postdocs to refine methodologies and evaluate results common to the 4 domains investigated in the form of semimonthly meetings. Within each team, one senior supervisor will be directly responsible for the Postdoc and the PhD researcher. The four research teams will be united by a common set of methodologies that are not usually jointly applied in the humanities. This integrated approach will include research methods of generative linguistics, experimental methods, methods from research in acquisition, and the manipulation of large data sets. The applicants are experts in these various methodologies, and will supervise and guide each Postdoc-PhD team.

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