Course Descriptions for Fall 2020


Ling 101: Human Language

Rebecca Shields
MW 12:05-12:55 + 1 weekly discussion

 In this class we investigate the inner workings of human language. Humans across the world use language to communicate, and they acquire this complex communication system effortlessly and rapidly as very young children. How is human language structured, and how does it work? We will learn about the fascinating diversity of human languages across the globe, and also about the intriguing commonalities that all languages share. The course includes a basic introduction to the study of phonetics and phonology (speech sounds), as well as morphology and syntax (word and sentence structures). We will also consider related questions such as: How do humans acquire language as children? What are signed languages, and how are they different from spoken languages? Students will get hands-on experience analyzing linguistic data from a diverse set of languages and dialects in the small-group discussion section.

The course is appropriate for both majors and non-majors and is open to anyone with an interest in language science. No prerequisites.



Eng 320: Linguistic Theory and Child Language     NEW!

Professor Jacee Cho
TR 2:30-3:45, 4281 Helen C. White

An introduction to the linguistic study of child language within the generative theory. According to this theory, humans are born with genetically determined linguistic knowledge called Universal Grammar, which guides children in learning language. Learn the basic concepts of the generative theory and learn to apply them to the study of child language. Topics include universal linguistic principles that govern children’s acquisition of syntax and semantics and cross-linguistic influence in children acquiring more than one language from birth or early childhood. Discuss empirical research studies testing the Universal Grammar theory of language acquisition.

Requisite: Sophomore standing

Ling 309: Grammatical Variability of Language

Professor Yafei Li
TR 11:00-12:15, 1151 Van Hise

Introduction to theories of variation among world languages, focusing on syntactic phenomena.

Recommended prerequisite: Ling 101/301 or other prior linguistics experience.



Ling 977: Seminar – Lexical Semantics and Derivation in the Algonquian Verb

Professor Monica Macaulay
T 1:30-4:00, 1151 Van Hise Hall

In this seminar, we will investigate verbs in Algonquian languages with respect to the lexical semantics of individual derivational morphemes and of combinations of morphemes. We will inform our empirical study with foundational readings in lexical semantics. Students may work on data from a particular language or look comparatively across languages. The kinds of questions we’ll be asking include:

  • What can be said about the semantic contribution of each component?
  • What kinds of semantic subclasses are found for each type of component?
  • What lexical domains have been examined within Algonquian? (Answer: very few!)
  • How do our findings fit (or not fit) into larger typological generalizations about verb semantics?
  • What kind of cooccurrence restrictions are there on components?
  • What is the status of compositionality in the Algonquian verb?
  • There have been claims that some formatives (elements at the submorphemic level) have meaning or function – how can we evaluate those claims?

There are many opportunities for original research to come out of this understudied area!


Eng 715: Advanced Second Language Acquisition

Professor Jacee Cho
TR 9:30-10:45, 7105 Helen C. White Hall

This course continues the introduction to Second Language Acquisition (Eng 318) by focusing on a number of critical issues in SLA from linguistic (generative) and psycholinguistic perspectives. In this course we will discuss findings of recent research in SLA that address questions such as: (1) what is the role of Universal Grammar in L2 acquisition? (2) how does L2 knowledge develop over time? (3) how does abstract linguistic knowledge interact with other cognitive and psychological factors in real-time language performance (production & comprehension)? We will learn how to design various linguistic and psycholinguistic experiments, and you will carry out a research project to investigate second language acquisition within the generative or psycholinguistic theories.

There is no required textbook. All reading materials will be available on the course website.

Prerequisite: Eng 318 Second Language Acquisition or equivalent


Psychology 711:

Professor Gary Lupyan
MW 9:30-11:30

This class studies the cognitive and linguistic processes underlying language comprehension—turning speech, sign, or written input into an understanding of that input, with a specific focus on word and sentence interpretation, in both children and adults.  Topics include ambiguity resolution: language to children and adults contains rampant lexical and syntactic (and other) ambiguities.  We’ll investigate how comprehenders interpret ambiguity and how this ability changes in development.  Another topic is syntactic complexity, and the degree to which people predict aspects of upcoming input.  Other topics may include referential interpretation (e.g. pronouns), prosody, and the relationship between language production and comprehension processes.  The readings will be chosen not only to cover topics but also introduce a variety of research methods in children and adults.  Most readings focus on typical development and native speakers, but we will touch on related issues, including L2 learners, atypical development, and impairments after brain injury in adulthood. The class typically enrolls students from Psychology, Language Sciences, Education, and programs with interest in (psycho)linguistics or second language instruction, such as Spanish, German, English, etc.