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Fall 2017 Course Descriptions

The course schedule, which includes course crns, is available as a pdf here.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted otherwise. If you are not in the Linguistics Program but are interested in taking any of these courses, please contact the instructor directly for permission.

Methods in Computational Linguistics I (LING 78100)

M 2 – 4pm
Michael Mandel

More details to come.

Methods in Computational Linguistics I Practicum (LING 73600)

T 4:15 – 6:15pm
Hussein Ghaly
(Michael Mandel)

1 credit

Statistics for Linguistics Research (LING 79100)

M 4:15 – 6:15pm
Martin Chodorow

This course provides an introduction to statistical analysis of data from various areas of research in linguistics. Topics cover non-parametric and parametric approaches, including chi-square, ordinal tests, randomization tests, ANOVA, linear regression, logistic regression, and mixed-effects models. In the accompanying practicum, students learn to use R and SPSS for data visualization and statistical analysis.

Statistics for Linguistics Research Practicum (LING 73900)

W 4:15 – 6:15pm
Martin Chodorow

1 credit

Historical Linguistics (LING 70200)

T 11:45am – 1:45pm
Juliette Blevins

Historical linguistics is the study of language change.  In this course we survey change at phonetic, phonological, morphological, lexical, syntactic, and semantic levels, present and practice methods of historical reconstruction, explore relationships between variation and change, study change in the context of language contact, language birth and language death, and explore new methods in comparative linguistics.  Though this is an introductory graduate course, students should have some background in basic descriptive linguistics. 

Phonology II (LING 71400)

T 2 – 4pm
Juliette Blevins

​More details to come.

Language Technology (LING 83600)

T 2 – 4pm
Alla Rozovskaya

Applications of speech and language processing are found everywhere today. Automated telephone systems, for example, incorporate voice recognition and synthesis. This seminar will explore how computers deal with natural language in such areas as speech recognition, speech generation, and machine translation. Intended as an introduction to the field, the course will survey a range of methodologies in speech and language processing and will cover the basic components of natural language systems, including the lexicon, syntax and parsing, semantic analysis and representation, discourse processing, and pragmatics.

Prerequisites
The course is open to graduate students with a solid background in either linguistics or computing. Knowledge of both is not required. It is recommended that students with minimal computer programming background have first taken Linguistics-73600 to learn programming skills. For students with minimal programming skills, Linguistics-83800 is a recommended co-requisite for this course. Computer science students or students with more programming skills will have the option of doing a programming-based rather than a research-based term project.

Research Interests
This course would be excellent for students who may be interested in research in computational linguistics or natural language processing (NLP). Specific research areas surveyed briefly in this course will include: Natural Language Processing, Natural Language Generation, Statistical Parsing, Speech Technologies, Machine Translation, Information Extraction, Automatic Summarization, and others.

Cross-listed with CSC84020.

Critical Pedagogy & Language Learning (LING 79500)

T 2 – 4pm
Beatriz Lado

This course provides students with a solid foundation in critical pedagogy in relation to the teaching of foreign, L2/Ln, local, and heritage languages. The course includes a historical overview of the field and its current place within Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching.

Students will examine how language teaching and testing often reproduce ideologies, politics, and social hierarchies, and will discuss classroom strategies to resist these practices. An important part of the course will be devoted to create teaching materials (syllabi, lesson plans, tests,..) that help teachers and learners understand the socio-cultural, political, and ideological dimensions of language, and make them more sensitive to social justice issues.

Seminar in Bilingualism (LING 86600)

T 4:15 – 6:15pm
Dianne Bradley

This seminar course explores phenomena in bilingualism, bringing together two perspectives.  The primary perspective is a psycholinguistic one; i.e., we ask questions about the character of language representations and processing mechanisms in the mind of the adult bilingual speaker/hearer, and of their development in the young bilingual.  How is language knowledge organized and accessed to support the behavioral "juggling act" of bilingualism, in which there is ready yet normally selective availability of more than one system of grammatical knowledge?  And, since any adequate empirical investigation of linguistic representation and process in the bilingual must crucially be conducted with well-defined populations under situationally appropriate protocols, we also review the classic sociolinguistic literature.  That literature raises questions about, e.g., varieties of bilingualism, language choice in different domains, and the analysis of code-switching behavior.

Advanced Syntax Seminar: The Syntax of Addresses (LING 84100)

W 11:45am – 1:45pm
William Haddican

This seminar focuses on the nature of addressee speech act roles in natural language syntax. A principal theoretical focus will be an approach pursued in recent literature that addressee speech act roles are licensed in a designated functional projection (usually high in the functional sequence). Among course readings will be recent literature on vocatives, honorifics and the class of so-called "allocutive" languages, which mark agreement with non-thematic addressees. The course will be in a seminar format with participants taking turns leading the discussion of course readings. The principal assessment will be a research paper.

Cross-listed with SPAN80000

Brain Plasticity and Language (LING 79200)

W 11:45am – 1:45pm
Loraine Obler

In this course we will consider the range of meanings of the term 'plasticity' in neuroscience and the cell-level phenomena that have been determined to contribute to plasticity. After reading Lenneberg, 1967, on the critical period, and several subsequent papers on sensitive periods,  We will review recent literature on it as it pertains to child-language development after left-hemisphere damage or ablation, adult recovery from stroke, and adult learning and experience, including bilingualism. Students will write weekly journal entries on the papers we read and prepare a lecture on a related topic for the final project.

Grading is pass/fail.

Cross-listed with SPCH 80700.

Syntax I (LING 72100)

W 2 – 4pm
Jason Kandybowicz

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 and that the apparent differences we see among languages are the result of differences in parameter settings. Although we will examine similarities and differences 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 core ingredients of P&P theory
  2.  Apply principles and parameters to perform syntactic analysis
  3.  Engage with primary literature employing P&P theory
  4.  Be proficient at engaging in syntactic argumentation

Syntax I Practicum (LING 73700)

Th 11:45am – 1:45pm
Ivana Durovic
(Jason Kandybowicz)

1 credit 

Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics (LING 70100)

W 4:15 – 6:15pm
Dianne Bradley & Yeonju Lee

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.

Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics Practicum (LING 73800)

M 4:15 – 6:15pm
Scott Storch

1 credit

Semantics II (LING 72400)

Th 11:45am - 1:45pm
Samer Al-Khatib

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).

First Language Acquisition (LING 72700)

Th 2 – 4pm
Virginia Valian

This course emphasizes readings and discussion of mechanisms of language acquisition.  The course will examine two broad views of acquisition.  In one, the child begins with innate abstract specifications of syntactic features and the form of the grammar; the child must learn language-specific details.  In the other view, the child begins with no innate syntax but observes lexically-specific details in the input and builds abstractions over time.  The course addresses the two perspectives through readings on typical and non-typical first language acquisition; the role of input in monolingual and bilingual acquisition; and computational modeling.

Specific topics will include:  syntactic features, categories, and structures, the content and form of early syntactic representations, the role of parental input, the role of performance limitations, and models of learning.

Classes will use a combined lecture-seminar format. Students will read original theoretical, empirical, and computational articles. Students will also a) perform some data analysis (and optional transcription), b) write a 5-10 page midterm paper (a critical review of a recent journal article), c) make one 15-min class presentation, and d) write a final paper or take a final examination.  Students are encouraged to think of their final paper as preparation for a qualifying paper.  All of the assignments can have the same focus.  In the ideal case, each assignment will feed into the next so that the final paper will benefit from the earlier work.

An important goal of the course is to help students think like researchers in language acquisition and, where relevant, to consider the applied implications of basic research findings.  By (transcribing and) analyzing child data, critiquing published work, and developing research plans, students can learn how to ask and answer questions in language acquisition.

There are numerous conferences to which students might be able to submit abstracts, such as: • BU Conference on Language Development • ASHA• LSA

In this course you will:

  1. Acquire a grounding in the basic issues and controversies in language acquisition
  2. Develop skills for analyzing children's spontaneous language
  3. Learn the basic experimental procedures for testing children's linguistic knowledge
  4. Learn how to analyze research papers
  5. Design a study, resolve a theoretical disagreement, or demonstrate your knowledge of acquisition via a test

Language Ideologies and Practices (LING 79400)

Th 2 – 4pm
Miki Makihara

Studies of language in its sociocultural context highlight the role of language ideologies and cultural conceptions of language in reproducing and transforming social dynamics and power relations as well as language use and structure. In this seminar, we will explore linguistic anthropological and other theoretical frameworks and case studies to examine the relationship between language ideologies and social processes and their linguistic and social consequences. The topics considered include modern linguistics, colonialism, missionization, nationalism, globalization, citizenship, identity formation, indigenous movements, sociolinguistic hierarchies, racialization, language standardization, shift and revitalization. We will also examine different research traditions, theoretical issues, and data sources and collection methods, and how they relate to the understanding of language ideologies and language use and structure.

Cross-listed with SPAN 80100, but please register for LING 79400

Development of Speech Perception (LING 79300)

Th 2 – 4pm
Valerie Shafer

This seminar focuses on current models of the development of speech perception from infancy through early childhood. The role of speech perception in acquiring the lexicon and grammar will be considered. Evidence from behavioral, neurobiological and clinical investigations will be used to evaluate the models and to propose future directions for research.

Cross-listed with SPCH 80400