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Fall 2014 Course Descriptions

LING82100 - Functional and semiotic approaches to grammar

Prof Ricardo Otheguy

The seminar explores first-principles questions about the nature of language and the form of grammar. It examines theoretical positions that endorse the grammar-use distinction and are functional because explanations for linguistic structure are sought in factors outside of language. And it examines positions that are semiotic because they take the form-meaning pair as the basic unit of grammar. Also considered will be approaches where the grammar-use distinction is problematized. Readings are drawn from scholars working in cognitive grammar, West Coast functionalism, Columbia School, construction grammar, usage-based grammar, exemplar theories, and variationist sociolinguistics.

LING79100 - Argument in Neurolinguistics

Prof Loraine Obler

Grading: Pass/Fail

In this course we will interrogate the logic of neurolinguistic argument. By way of historical background in the early weeks of the class we will review the 19th century origins of the field, abstracting the reasoning of Broca (1861, 1865) and Wernicke (1874), and the early 20th c. debates about brain regions responsible for language (Marie, 1906) along with a series of 1908 debates in the Neurological Society of Paris. We then turn to argument in the most recent decades when technological advances have permitted refined theorizing about language and its relation to the brain. Here we will consider, for example, the positions on whether Specific Language Impairment (SLI) exists or is, instead, Primary Language Impairment, competing explanations of agrammatism, and one or sets of target articles and comment in Behavior and Brain Sciences.
Rather than take a final exam, students will complete a literature review paper that sets up research questions for a project that would decide between two competing alternatives.

LING79500 - Spanish in Social Context

Prof. Ricardo Otheguy

The course will address issues of Spanish as seen from the point of view of the sociolinguistics of language and the sociolinguistics of society (or, as these two approaches are also known, variationist sociolinguistics and the sociology of language). Under the first approach, we will study variable features of Spanish phonology and morphosyntax, as these are conditioned by external factors (personal and socio-demographic) and internal factors (morphosyntactic and communicative). We will also consider some of the classic issues of Latin American and Peninsular dialectology. Under the second approach, we will ask the root sociology-of-language question, that is, who speaks what to whom where and for what purposes, as it applies to Spanish-speaking settings in Latin America, the Peninsula, and the Hispanic communities of the United States. Classes will be conducted in Spanish (but questions can be asked, and will be answered, in English). Some readings will be in Spanish, others in English. Exams and papers are written in Spanish or English, according to the student’s choice.

LING73900 - Teaching Linguistics Across CUNY Campuses

Prof. Gita Martohardjono

*Note: This course will only meet on weeks when there is NO colloquium
This 1-credit practicum will provide students with a broad range of tools and techniques to use in teaching linguistics and related courses across the CUNY campuses.  We will look at Linguistics-specific and general issues that come up for new teachers.  Topics to be covered include:

  • syllabus design and development

  • lesson planning

  • finding and developing teaching materials and other resources

  • assessments

  • scaffolding

  • classroom management

  • organization

  • technology options

  • and more

LING72700 - Lexical Development

Prof. Sandeep Prasada

Children acquire new words with astonishing ease and speed. This course
will explore theoretical and empirical research pertaining to the
mechanisms by which children acquire the meaning of words.  Questions
to be examined include: Are there special word learning mechanisms?  If
so, what are some of them?  If not, what are the sources of constraint
on the acquisition of word meaning?  Are the meanings of words from
different syntactic categories learned in the same way?  How/do
morpho-syntactic differences between languages influence the
acquisition of word meanings?  How do statistical properties of the
input impact the course of lexical development?   What is the role of
parental input?  Where do syntax-semantics correspondences in lexical
development come from? What kinds of errors do children make in
acquiring the meanings of novel words?  How do they learn to correct
these errors? What are the cognitive resources that the child must
bring to the task of learning various different kinds of word meanings?
  We will cover research on the acquisition of the meanings of nouns,
verbs, adjectives, spatial prepositions, and personal pronouns. 
Students will be introduced to the methods available for studying
lexical development as well as their limitations.  Class meetings will
include a combination of lecture and seminar style sessions.  Students
will have the opportunity to do presentations as well as a
project/paper on a topic of interest in lexical development.

LING78100 - Methods in Computational Linguistics

Prof. Andrew Rosenberg

This is the first of a two-part course sequence to train students with a linguistics background in the core methodologies of computational linguistics. Successful completion of this two-course sequence will enable students to take graduate-level elective courses in computational linguistics; both courses offered by the Graduate Center's Linguistics Program, as well as courses offered by the Computer Science Program.  This course [as the first part--Methods in Computational Linguistics I—of a two-part sequence] will introduce computer programming at a level that will allow students to begin building computer applications that address various computational linguistic tasks. No previous programming experience is required. The programming language we will use is Python. We begin by learning the syntax of Python and how to program generally; we then focus specifically on linguistic applications.

LING79300 - Language and Identity

Prof Cecelia Cutler

This course examines the role of language in the construction of social identity, with a special focus on Latino identities in the US. How much agency do people have in choosing and projecting their gender, sexual, racial, ethnic, class, and identities through linguistic, discursive, and other semiotic devices in interaction? How do individuals linguistically and discursively contest the ways in which they are imagined, defined and labeled by others? By the semester’s end, students will gain an understanding of the different ways in which to consider the role of language in identity construction and develop their own ideas for continuing research in this area.

LING70100 - Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics

Profs. Dianne Bradley & Christina Tortora

An introduction to the intellectual foundations, methodologies, and motivations of linguistics.  What kinds of questions do linguists ask?  What do some of the answers look like?  And why?
The course will cover fundamental concepts in the core areas of linguistics, i.e., phonetics and phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics. Their role in fields such as first and second language acquisition, sentence processing, language change, sociolinguistics and pragmatics, may be explored depending on faculty specialization. 
A substantial component of the course will be the discussion and demonstration of analytical techniques used in contemporary linguistics and applied to problem sets.  A practicum will be attached to this course, taught by graduate student assistants.

LING79400 - Language Policy and Planning

Prof. J. Del Valle

This course will offer an overview of both modernist and critical approaches to language policy and planning (LPP). While the former deal with LPP mainly as resource management, the latter focus on the discursive and ideological dimensions of both LPP and its academic treatment. The course will be structured around three major topics: language standardization (including, for example, technical and ideological issues related to orthographic codification, pluricentrism, and the role of language academies), linguistic minorities (including, for example, policies for maintenance or shift and linguistic rights), and language spread (including, for example, policies dealing with the international promotion of English as a foreign language or the status of Spanish as a “foreign?/second?/heritage?” language in the United States).

LING72100 - Syntax I

Prof. Bill Haddican

This course provides an introduction to Principles and Parameters Theory (P&P), the
foundation of current mainstream generative approaches to sentence structure. P&P aims to explain the acquisition and cross-linguistic variation of syntactic phenomena by pursuing the idea that a pre-determined set of principles underlies the grammars of all languages; the apparent dif ferences we see among languages are the result of parameter settings. Although we will examine similarities and di erences between languages, English (and other European languages) will be a main point of reference in our understanding of the theory.

Learning Goals:

By the end of this course, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. reproduce all the core ingredients of P&P theory
  2. apply the principles and parameters of P&P syntax and perform syntactic analysis on their basis
  3. have access to the primary literature employing P&P theory
  4. be profi cient at engaging in syntactic argumentation

LING74200 - Semantics II

Prof. Sam Alxatib

This course covers advanced topics in the semantics of natural language. We introduce and discuss representations of meaning that are beyond those permitted in extensional frameworks, and focus on how syntactic structures of natural language expressions can be composed and related to these enriched representations. Likely topics: the semantics of attitude verbs, modality, conditionals, questions, degree semantics, plurals and events, tense and aspect. The course assumes background in material covered in Semantics I, particularly the coverage of extensional semantics in Heim and Kratzer (1998).

LING71300 - Phonology I

Prof. Dianne Bradley

This course, assuming no more than general familiarity with phonological concepts, offers an intensive introduction to the formal apparatus of modern generative phonology, with an emphasis on the development of fluency in analyzing phonological data. The presentation of material in class therefore assumes concurrent registration in the associated practicum (Ling 73600, Phonology I Practicum).

The basics of phonological description and theory -- inventories, distinctive features, natural classes, alternations, levels of representation, rule or constraint formulation -- are first introduced within the linear framework of classic generative phonology.  With these basics in place, we motivate additions to the formalism -- feature geometry, autosegmental architecture, notions of underspecification, metrical representation -- in terms of their better capture of typologically common phonological phenomena.  Finally, we review an altogether different analytic framework, Optimality Theory.

LING71400 - Phonology II

Prof. Juliette Blevins

This course continues the study of sound patterns presented in Phonology I, with an emphasis on explanation.  Why do certain sound patterns recur again and again in the world’s languages while others are extremely rare?  What sound patterns are best explained in terms of articulatory properties of speech, and which are best viewed as a consequence of aspects of human speech perception?  What phonological universals have been proposed and what is their current status?  What sound patterns can be analyzed as as emergent properties of linguistic systems?
The basic text will be Blevins (2004) Evolutionary Phonology (Cambridge University Press), continued use of Kenstowicz (1994) Phonology in Generative Grammar (Blackwell), and a handful of articles as additional assigned reading. Requirements include weekly readings, homework assignments, and participation in class discussion. There will be two in-class exams: a mid-term and a final, both assessing understanding of readings, homework, and lecture material. A prerequisite for this course is Phonology I, or permission of the instructor.

LING70500 - Second Language Acquisition

Prof. Gita Martohardjono

In this course, we will examine two of the characteristics that make second language or non-native language acquisition (NNLA) unique and distinct from native (or first) language acquisition: The first is the type of evidence needed for the attainment of NNLA, focusing on the study of negative evidence (aka corrective feedback) and its controversial role in NNLA. The second area of concentration is the impact of prior linguistic experience on NNLA, including the native language as well as other non-native languages acquired previously. The course is open to students new to second language acquisition, along with those who are more advanced. For the former group, there will be opportunities to collect data and formulate a research proposal on the basis on literature in one of the two areas of concentration. More advanced students can carry out a research project of their choosing; such students are requested to consult with the instructor prior to registration for the course.