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Spring 2020

SPAN 597 - Writing for Publishing 

Instructor: Rena Torres Cacoullos
Course Description: Students will come to class with a previously completed or well advanced linguistics research project and will work on converting it into a submission to a suitable peer reviewed journal.

SPAN 510 - Spanish Descriptive Linguistics: Phonology 

Instructor: Matthew Carlson
Course Description: This is a second graduate course in phonology, with a primary focus on Spanish. Our main goals will be to understand the Spanish sound system and to engage the field by generating and pursuing research questions that have the potential to contribute to advancing our knowledge of this topic. This is an ambitious goal. To achieve it, students will conduct focused explorations of the literature to explore what is known about each topic we will address, generate focused research questions that extend that knowledge, develop methods that will provide answers to those questions, and conduct mini-studies and assignments in which they will apply various techniques for data collection and analysis, and then interpret and communicate their findings. In this way, our goals are as much methodological as theoretical: we aim for a critical evaluation of how we know what we (think we) know about phonology. We will therefore stress the perspective and techniques of Laboratory Phonology, but the course also relies on and assumes familiarity with the major schools of thought in phonology (from LING 504), to achieve a comprehensive approach.

SPAN 597/Ling 597 - Linguistic Ecology 

Instructor: John Lipski
Course Description: Linguistic ecology is the study of languages as they relate to one another, to the people who speak and study them, and to the societies in which they are embedded. The development, evolution, spread, retention, and erosion of languages cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration the impact of ecological factors. At the same time, ensuring ecological validity is both a major imperative and a major challenge in all fields of linguistics, including historical and corpus studies, theoretical modeling, field and classroom research, language planning, and laboratory-based experimental inquiries. This class will examine the major issues in linguistic ecology, as well as their application to a variety of scenarios. Some representative topics include diasporic retentions (e.g. Sephardic Spanish); scenarios of creolization (enslavement, marronage, trading and military posts, multi-ethnic commerce); heritage languages stemming from voluntary immigration, labor recruitment, and settlement of religious minorities; recent politically- and economically-based migratory trends and their linguistic consequences; ecological considerations in field and laboratory research (including the impact of technology as well as working with diverse participant pools). Each student will choose a topic related to the student’s ongoing or proposed research, will explore the ecological implications and propose approaches that take them into account.  

Spring 2019

SPAN 597/ LING 597- Methods in field research 

Course Description: 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 - Acquisition and Variation 

Course Description: 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 - Functional Syntax 

Course Description: 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 - A few words about words: Linguistic and psycholinguistic approaches to morphology 

Course Description: 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 508/LING 500 - Generative Syntax/Syntax II 

Course Description: 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 - Current Statistical Practice in Language Science 

Course Description: 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 - Language Processing in Bilinguals 

Course Description: 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  - Advanced topics in phonological analysis and theory 

Course Description: 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.

Spring 2018

SPAN 597 - Fitting languages together: Theoretical approaches to multilingualism 

Course Description: How do you fit two or more languages into one mind? Do bilinguals have two language systems, or just one (or is this a sensible question to ask)? How is multilinguals’ knowledge of language different from that of monolinguals? In this course we will explore a variety of approaches to understanding the nature of multilinguals’ linguistic knowledge and use, relying on a variety of theoretical traditions, sources of data, and multilingual phenomena including second language acquisition, code-switching, language contact, and language processing. We will aim for a synthesis that will help chart a way forward in understanding the way most of the world experiences language—two or more at a time!

SPAN/LING 597 - Contact-induced languages 

Course Description: Historical linguistics strives to reconstruct earlier stages of languages, but it is seldom possible to arrive at the “first” form of a language, because past a certain time depth no reliable conclusions can be extrapolated. Under special situations of language contact, however, “new” languages emerge, including pidgins, creoles, anti-creoles, and intertwined languages. This course will examine issues such as: How are contact-induced languages formed? What are the similarities and differences (if any) between these “new” languages and “natural” languages? In contact-induced languages what are the relative contributions of the input languages, linguistic and cognitive universals, and spontaneous emergent traits? What are the characteristics of bilingualism involving a contact-induced language and one or more of its lexifier languages, and how can data from such environments contribute to a broader understanding of bilingualism? What are some viable possibilities for conducting research on contact-induced languages?

SPAN 510 - Romance Phonology  

SPAN 509 - Functional Syntax 

Course Description: The objectives of this course 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, discourse-based syntax, typology, grammaticalization, construction grammar), and (3) learn skills for carrying out a quantitative syntactic analysis of natural speech data, and developing corresponding argumentation.

Spring 2017

SPAN 597 - Statistics for Language Scientists 

Course Description: The primary goal in this course will be to introduce a range of quantitative techniques used in language science. By the end of the course you should be able to apply these techniques for visualizing and analyzing your own data as well as for evaluating results reported in the literature. The scope of the course encompasses techniques for exploring data, basic hypothesis testing, regression, ANOVA, categorical data analysis, and mixed effects regression. Time permitting we will also explore topics in Bayesian inference. A secondary goal is to learn to conduct these analyses and data manipulation using the open source programming language R.

But statistics, and science, never sits still. Therefore, alongside our practical goals, we will aim for the, arguably more important, goal of learning to think about quantitative data. This includes a critical view of quantitative research in general, questions of measurement, the many decisions involved in model structure and interpretation, the use of alternative methods, and enhancing your ability to extend your knowledge to new techniques independently.

SPAN 597 - The psycholinguistic study of code-switching 

Course Description: This seminar will provide an in-depth examination of codeswitching, with both historical grounding and a review of contemporary codeswitching work from corpus-based and lab-based perspectives. To begin the course, we will provide a historical overview, focusing on seminal papers in the field, so that students have an understanding of how syntactic constraint-based approaches to codeswitching arose in the literature, in large measure as a means of establishing that codeswitched language was not “a-lingual.” As we explore the issue of constraint-based approaches, we will also carefully examine methodological issues, focusing in particular on the limitations of the data and data collection paradigms that have constituted the basis for the theoretical claims made in the literature. In the next phase of the course we will focus on more recent approaches to codeswitching from a production and processing perspective. Throughout the course, we will attempt to evaluate psycholinguistic research in light of more linguistically informed approaches to the complex array of issues arising in codeswitching.

LING 597 - Code-switching in the lab and in the community 

Course Schedule: The primary goal in this course will be to explore a range of quantitative techniques common in language science, for analyzing continuous and categorical data. By the end of the course you should be able to apply these techniques for visualizing and analyzing your own data as well as for evaluating results reported in the literature. The scope of the course encompasses techniques for exploring data, basic hypothesis testing, regression, ANOVA, categorical data analysis, and mixed effects regression.

Fall 2015

SPAN 597C - Field Methods 

Course Description: This course will present methods and techniques for field research in linguistics, including ethnographic/anthropological, sociolingistic, 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. 

Spring 2015

SPAN 596A - Spanish Mood Variation 

Course Description: The goal is to conduct a review of treatments of the Spanish Subjunctive in Grammars spanning the 15th-20th centuries modeled on Poplack et al. (top appear), and to conduct a variationist analysis of a Mexican Spanish speech corpus. 

SPAN 596B - Variable Use of the Spanish Subjunctive

Course Description: The goal is to conduct a review of treatments of the Spanish subjunctive and grammars spanning the 15th to 20th centuries modeled on Poplack et al. (to appear), and to conduct a variationist analysis of Peninsular Spanish Speech Corpus. 

SPAN 596C  - Language Science 

Course Description: Methods and research in language science. 

SPAN 597A  - Language Acquisition and Variation 

Course Description: This course focuses on acquisition of variable input with the goal of understanding how children acquire language. 

SPAN 597C (LING 597C) - Methods in Language Contact Research 

Course Description: This course will explore a variety of approaches to the study of language contact, with special emphasis on naturalistic data from bilingual speech communities.