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Fall 2013 Course Descriptions

 Click Here for the Fall 2013 course schedule 

LING 724000 Semantics II

Prof: Sam Alxatib (Al Khatib)

This course covers advanced topics in the semantics of natural language. The overarching theme is relating the syntactic structure of sentences to the structure that gives rise to their meaning (defined in terms of truth conditions). Topics will include: 

- quantification, binding, and scope;
- intensionality, modality, conditionals;
- degree semantics;
- plurals and events;
- tense and aspect.

Textbook: Heim, I. and A. Kratzer. 1998. Semantics in Generative Grammar. Blackwell.

Preliminary reading list:

Quantification, scope, etc.

Barwise, J. and R. Cooper (1981). Generalized quantifiers in natural language. (Linguistics and Philosophy)
Reinhart, T. (1997). Quantifier scope: how labor is divided between QR and choice functions (Linguistics and Philosophy).
Schwarz, B. (2011). Long-distance indefinites and Choice Function. Language and Linguistic Compass.

Intensionality, modals, and conditionals

Selections from von Fintel, K. and Heim, I. (2007). Intensional Semantics.
Kratzer (1981). The notional category of modality. Reprinted in Kratzer (2012)
von Fintel, K. and S. Iatridou (2007). Epistemic containment. Linguistic Inquiry.
Iatridou, S. and I. Sichel. (2011). Scope diminishment. Linguistic Inquiry.


Heim (2000). Degree operators and scope. SALT proceedings.


Tense and aspect

Ogihara (2005). Tense and aspect in truthconditional semantics. Lingua.

Events and plurals

Link (1983). The logical analysis of plurals and mass-terms: a lattice-theoretic approach.
Kratzer (1996). Severing the external argument from its verb.
Kratzer (2007). Semantics in generative grammar.

LING 84100 Variation and Change in English Verb Morpho-Syntax

Prof. Christina Tortora


This course addresses the exciting challenge that variation in English verb morpho-syntax presents to current theories of verb-movement, verb morphology, tense, and aspect. Our investigation will include: variation in T-to-C movement in matrix and embedded interrogatives (e.g. What she said? and He wondered what did she say); variation in subject-verb agreement (e.g. The girls likes to read and She like to read); variation in past and participial forms (e.g. He come/came here yesterdayWe’ve saw/seen/seed a lot of deer here); the syntax and interpretation of aspectual markers (e.g. I bin quit schoolThey be planting trees for a livingYou do clean them — non-emphatic; He’s only after getting shot); the compound simple past (i.e. non-pluperfect I had walked to school yesterday and I had went there yesterday = ‘I walked to school yesterday’ and ‘I went there yesterday’); and paradigm levelling in the presence of the negative marker n’t (e.g. He was happy vs. He weren’t happy, or, Does he like pizza? vs. He don’t like pizza). Dialects will include British (e.g. Hiberno-English, Belfast English, Northern British), American (e.g. Appalachian English and African American English), and Australian varieties. Because much of the variation observed is at the level of the individual, the course will also provide an opportunity to address the challenge that intra-speaker variability presents to current syntactic theory, and to discuss the ways in which the observed variation informs our understanding of the mechanisms which lead to diachronic syntactic change. In turn, analyses of diachronic syntactic change (e.g. the historic rise ofdo-support) will inform our analysis of synchronic intra-speaker variability. The course will involve weekly readings, and also explorations of dialect corpora (such as the Penn Corpora of Historical Englishand the in-progress Audio-Aligned and Parsed Corpus of Appalachian English). There will be two take-home exams.

LING 71500 Morphology

Marcel den Dikken


This course will offer a comprehensive overview of the major theories of morphology in the field, with particular reference to the interfaces between morphology and phonology, and between morphology and syntax. Starting out from the debates between strong and weak lexicalism (culminating in Chomsky’s 1970 ‘Remarks on nominalization’) and the classic Kiparskian level-ordered morphology/phonology model, the course will work its way to current theories of morphology, including Anderson’s (1992) ‘a-morphous morphol¬ogy’, Aronoff’s (1994) ‘morphology by itself’ and Halle & Marantz’s (1993) ‘distributed morphology’, as well as approaches to morphology which deny morphology independent status as a module of the theory and perform both inflectional and derivational word formation in the syntax (the strongly non-lexicalist model of Baker 1988), and the revival of strong lexicalism in Chomsky’s (1995) minimalism.

Students registering for this course are expected to have successfully completed their coursework for Syntax I (LING 72100), but no prior knowledge of phonology or more advanced syntax will be presupposed.

Learning Goals:

This course concentrates on the interface between morphology and syntax, focusing on the two central pillars of this interface: agreement and case. In the course of the discussion, the major theoretical positions concerning the relation between morphology and syntax will be examined. Successful completion of the course will give students access to the primary literature on issues in morphology and its relationship with syntax, and will give them direct experience with conducting original research in this area.



LING 79400 (SPCH80700) Seminar Speech and Language: The Theory-Treatment Interface

 Prof. Loraine K. Obler


In this class we will analyze papers that purport to link theory and treatment in Speech-Language Pathology in children and adults. Some simply assert treatment should be theory-based, others recommend treatments derived from theories or hypotheses, gold-standard derives treatments from theory and test whether these treatments work. After a set of introductory readings on theory in general and theory in Speech-Language Pathology in particular, students will report on articles in their particular areas of expertise. In addition to weekly journaling of the papers we read, a take-home final exam will permit students to integrate what they've learned in the class.

This class is officially graded pass-fail; meetings will be scheduled between students and the instructor to evaluate students' performance in the class.

LING 79200 (SPCH80900) Seminar in Speech Science: Speech Production

Prof. Douglas Whalen

This class will examine the ways in which language is expressed by the human vocal tract.  Combining insights from motor control studies and linguistic analysis, the theoretical side of the class will explore the intricacies of expressing the meaningful elements of a language’s phonology.  This will be combined with more practical examination of various means of measuring articulation: electroglottography (EGG), static palatography, optical tracking, electromagnetic articulometry, and ultrasound.  Applications to special populations and to cross-language comparisons will be discussed.  The final project will either be a survey paper or a small physiological experiment.  Familiarity with phonetics is assumed.

LING 79100 (SPAN 80100) Seminar: Studies in Spanish Sociolinguistics – Spanish in Contact: Global Perspectives

Prof. Michael Newman


All languages are affected by interactions with other languages, and interest in the resulting language contact phenomena has grown steadily across sociolinguistics in recent years. Spanish arguably has constantly participated in intense forms of this contact ever since its emergence on the borders of Romance and Basque speaking regions in north central Spain. After a brief account of this history, we will examine a variety of recent sociolinguistic studies. These examine contact in Spain and Latin America, where Spanish plays a dominant role, and the US, where it plays a subordinate one. The studies reviewed will be examined as a series of related cases that throw light on questions involving language contact phenomena. These include:


  • the relationship between language attitudes and ideologies and language shift and maintenance,

  • how contact motivates or does not language variation and change, and

  • how syncretic linguistic practices emerge and are evaluated.

In certain key studies these three threads are interwoven in particularly illuminating ways. Students will also examine Spanish in contact in an original research project using data from New York or potentially elsewhere via data gathered through social media.

LING 85100 Phonology Seminar: Distinctive Feature Theory: Problems and Prospects

Prof. Juliette Blevins


Course Description: Distinctive feature theory continues to be an active and productive area of research in phonology and phonetics. This seminar will examine past and current approaches to distinctive feature theory, beginning with early Prague School conceptions, through the Sound Pattern of English system, and including more recent proposals for Emergent Feature Theory (Mielke 2004).  We will also examine categorical perception for universal feature-based categories, natural and unnatural classes, and problematic features, including rhotic, liquid, and subclasses of coronal consonants.

Prerequisites: Phonology I and II, or permission of the instructor.

LING 73900 Professional Development: Teaching Linguistics Across Campus

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

LING 80100 Research Methods in Second Language Acquisition

Prof. Gita Martohardjono

This course is an overview of experimental research methods used in adult second language acquisition studies. We will focus on methods examining language production and comprehension/perception suited to the evaluation of syntax, morphosyntax and phonetics/phonology in the L2 learner. Students will learn how to 1. formulate theoretically motivated research questions; 2. design empirical studies and appropriate data collection procedures to test these, 3. analyze data and interpret results.

CSC 84010 Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning and the Web

Prof. Andrew Rosenberg

Due to the vast amount of available language data, the Web both enables and benefits from machine learning and natural language processing techniques. This course will cover 1) seminal and state-of-the-art approaches to language understanding that are robust and/or scalable, 2) machine learning and data analysis technologies that are well-suited to web data including online training, ranking, active learning and outlier detection, 3) core web technologies and APIs, and 4) ensemble methods for merging evidence from disparate sources.

Syllabus and learning goals can be found here

LING79300 & 73900 Statistics for Linguistics Research

Syntax I LING72100

Prof: Marcel den Dikken


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 differences we see among languages are the result of 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.
By the end of this course, students will be expected to be able to:
•           reproduce all the core ingredients of P&P theory
•           apply the principles and parameters of P&P syntax and perform syntactic analysis on their basis
•           have access to the primary literature employing P&P theory
•           be proficient at engaging in syntactic argumentation

PLEASE NOTE Prof. den Dikken will be out of the country on 28 August (teaching at a summer school in Hungary), and since 4 September has no classes scheduled, THE FIRST MEETING OF THE COURSE WILL ONLY BE ON 11 SEPTEMBER. The first meeting of the Syntax I Practicum will be after the first lecture. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact him.

course syllabus

course handout