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Spring 2019

SPAN 597/ LING 597 (TR 9:05-10:20)

Methods in field research 
John Lipski

This course will present methods and techniques for field research in linguistics, including ethnographic/anthropological, sociolinguistic, and psycholinguistic approaches. Among the topics to be presented are interview techniques, software and hardware for field settings, adapting laboratory methods to varying linguistic ecologies, interpretation of data, and interfacing with other empirical approaches to the study of language. The overarching goal is to make the students more versatile as scholars and researchers, complementing existing skills and knowledge with new concepts as well as integrating this knowledge in order to facilitate cross-disciplinary research.
Among other things: In order to put into practice the initial exploratory phase that precedes many field-based research endeavors, each student will identify one linguistic environment geographically distant from Penn State and with which the student has no previous familiarity. During the course of the semester students will research this environment from afar using all available personal and electronic resources, will develop a set of viable potential contacts for future field research in that environment, and using these contacts will collect and demonstrate some basic pilot data that could be used in the formulation of a proposal for a full study. Throughout the course there will be class segments devoted to brief oral presentations on the progress of this assignment. 
In order to develop familiarity with open-source experiment-building software, each student will design (including substantial modifications to existing programs), demonstrate, and turn in a demo-level pilot experiment program in an open-source platform such as PEBL, OpenSesame, PsychoPy, DMDX, etc.
Students will develop and turn in a research bibliography relevant to the chosen field research environment.
At the end of the semester each student will submit a final paper that incorporates the results of the exploratory survey and the corresponding research bibliography. The paper will include details of a proposed research project that involves both collection of basic linguistic data (oral and/or written) and an interactive experimental component.

SPAN 597 (TR 10:35-11:50)

Acquisition and Variation 
Karen Miller

This course brings together research in psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and first and second language acquisition in order to prepare students to investigate how L1 and L2 speakers acquire and process sociolinguistic variation. The first half of the course will be focused on methodologies in child language acquisition research, as compared to methods used with adult speakers. The second half of the course will focus on sociolinguistic variation, with special attention to studies that involve children and L2 speakers. In our field, there are very few studies that focus on developmental sociolinguistics – acquisition of variation and processing of variation in child L1 and adult L2 speakers. In this course, the goal is for students to draw from these various sub-disciplines of linguistics and create a project that integrates language variation, processing, and language acquisition.

SPAN 509 (TR 12:05-1:20)

Functional Syntax 
Rena Torres Cacoullos

Our objectives are for students to (1) become acquainted with the study of grammatical forms together with their functions, (2) sample approaches in this area (usage-based theory, grammaticalization, discourse-based syntax, typology, construction grammar), and (3) learn skills for carrying out a quantitative syntactic analysis of natural speech data, and developing corresponding argumentation.

SPAN 597 (TR 1:35-2:50)

A few words about words: Linguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to morphology
Matthew Carlson

Intuitively, the nature of words and their use seems obvious, but a well-specified theoretical understanding of words has remained surprisingly elusive. The goal of this course is to develop a solid understanding of the important questions about words, and the current state of our knowledge about their answers, drawing on a broad range of work in linguistics and psychology. These questions include, what resources exist in individual languages for constructing new words, or for decomposing old ones into smaller, meaningful parts? What is the relationship between the meanings of complex words and their morphological structure? How do languages differ in the ways words may be constructed? What is the nature of humans’ long-term knowledge of words, and how is that knowledge deployed in language production and comprehension? Students will engage these questions through assigned readings, searching multiple literatures, guiding class discussions, and short written assignments, as well as a final project.


Fall 2018

SPAN 507 (TR 9:05-10:20)

Hispano-Romance Linguistics
John Lipski

SPAN 508/LING 500 (TR 9:05-10:20)

Generative Syntax/Syntax II
Michael Putnam

This course serves as an overview of principle elements involved in the formal analysis of syntactic structure in natural language. Using a wide array of cross-linguistic data, we will explore which elements of syntactic structure are essential building blocks in the human language. The theoretical approach adopted in this course combines both formal and functional factors, and will function as an essential grounding for the combination of theoretical and experimental research moving forward. The first half of the course centers on the role of the lexicon, argument structure, and word order variation, while the second half of the course will be dedicated to filler-gap (i.e., long-distance) dependencies.

SPAN 597 (TR 12:05-1:20)

Current Statistical Practice in Language Science
Matthew Carlson
Our primary goal in this course is to explore how to analyze and interpret quantitative data in language science. Part of this goal will be to gain familiarity and proficiency with a range of quantitative techniques common in language science. Reflecting trends in the field, linear and logistic mixed effects regression will be a major focus in addition to more well-known (e.g. ANOVA, multiple regression, chi-square) techniques. We will also spend some time exploring other methods such as multidimensional scaling, generalized additive modeling, and conditional inference trees, as well as more specialized techniques (e.g. drift-diffusion modeling). A more important goal is to learn to think critically about quantitative data and how we can learn from it. This includes a critical view of quantitative research in general, questions of measurement, the many decisions involved in analytic strategy, model structure and interpretation, and the ability to extend students' knowledge to new techniques independently.

LING 520/PSY 520 (TR 1:35-2:50)

Language Processing in Bilinguals
Giuli Dussias

Why is bilingualism interesting to psycholinguists? And who is a bilingual anyway? Despite the prevalence of monolinguals in the United States, most people of the world are bilingual. To have a genuinely universal account of human cognition will therefore require a detailed understanding of the relations between language and thought in individuals who speak and understand more than one language. It will be essential that research on basic cognitive functions in bilinguals examine both the course and the consequence of second language acquisition. Bilingualism, therefore, provides a unique vantage point from which the relations between thought and language may be viewed. Historically, this issue was the focus of the debate over the Whorfian hypothesis (i.e., does language determine thought?). In contemporary psychology, it has emerged as a central issue in the debate over modularity. Understanding the form of language and memory representation in the bilingual may provide an important set of constraints in modeling the fundamental categories of the mind. Bilingualism can provide a research tool for examining cognitive functions that are sometimes impenetrable within an individual's first language. The examination of the mapping of form to meaning in constructing syntactically well-formed sentences in two languages with contrasting syntax, or in understanding the meaning of words that have similar form but differ in meaning in two languages, provides a tool for developing converging sources of evidence to test theories of language comprehension and memory.  Topics to be covered include second language acquisition in children and adults, language comprehension and production in a second language, code switching and language mixing, cognitive consequences of bilingualism, and the neural basis of bilingualism.

LING 504 (TR 4:35-5:50)

Advanced topics in phonological analysis and theory
Katharina Schuhmann

Phonology is concerned with understanding sound patterns in language. Through this course we will seek to understand what this means, and we will explore how phonologists have sought to advance this goal over the past several decades. We will examine the shift from rule-based to constraint-based theories of phonology with an emphasis on analyzing the shortcomings and paradoxes inherent in earlier approaches. At issue will be the search for a better understanding of how the phonological component continually interacts with phonetics and morphology in order to create optimal outputs. Students will analyze data in formal problem sets and we will examine particular problems through reading various journal articles treating the same topic from different experimental and theoretical approaches. We will then evaluate the various approaches systematically. The goal of this course is to prepare students to do close readings of advanced research.