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Spring 2014 Course Descriptions

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LING 70200 - Historical Linguistics

Prof. Juliette Blevins

Proto-Indo-European Phonology & Morphology in the context of Linguistic Typology

Course description:
This course will attempt to do two things simultaneously. First, it will introduce students to Proto-Indo-European, and the comparative method on the basis of which the language has been  constructed.  There will be special attention give to the reconstruction of the segment inventory, the nature of contrasts, phonotactics and root/stem structure. Second, it will evaluate various phonological and morphological hypotheses about Proto-Indo-European and its development in the context of current cross-linguistic knowledge of sound patterns and word-structure.  A prerequisite for the course is Phonology I or permission of the instructor. 
Textbooks for the course will be:
Fortson, Benjamin W. IV. 2010. Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction.  2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell.
Watkins, Calvert. 2011.  The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Third edition. Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt.

LING 72200 - Syntax II

Prof Marcel denDikken

Course description
Taking the end-point of Syntax I as a starting-point (and as a prerequisite for registration), this course takes its participants from Chomsky’s (1981) original Government-Binding Theory all the way to the most recent incarnation of the principles-and-parameters approach to generative grammar: the minimalist program (Chomsky 1995). Along the way, it addresses, among other things: (i) Lasnik & Saito’s (1984) theory of ‘gamma-marking’ and intermediate trace deletion at LF, (ii) Chomsky’s (1986–Barriers) densely successive-cyclic derivations for A¢–movement via intermediate VP–adjunction, (iii) his unification of the theories of government and bounding, (iv) his analysis of A–movement and its dependency on head-chains, (v) the perspective on the general interdependency of A–movement and head-movement that the ‘equidistance’ based theory of locality in Chomsky (1993) gives rise to, (vi) the general premises of the minimalist program of Chomsky (1993) and Chomsky (1995), (vii) the reduction of the phrase-structure component of the theory (‘bare phrase structure’), and (viii) the connection between hierarchical relationships between constituents and their linear sequencing (‘antisymmetry’; Kayne 1994).
The course presupposes a solid command of the issues addressed in Syntax I (LING 72100), but no specific knowledge of syntactic theory beyond that point.

LING 72500 - Introduction to Sentence Processing

Prof Janet Fodor

Course Description
We will study the process by which perceivers assign syntactic structure and meaning to sentences (word sequences). The aim is to discover how the knowledge of language represented in the mental ‘competence grammar’ is put to work in performance. We will read the early classic papers on parsing models as background for studying current theories. We will consider sentence processing at the ‘interfaces’: how is LF computed? How does prosody affect syntactic structure assignment? Data will be drawn from experimental studies of Croatian, Dutch, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and other languages as well as English.

LING 79100 (SPCH 70500) - Speech Science

Prof. Doug Whalen

Course Description
This is a basic course which includes topics in speech acoustics, articulation, and speech perception. Lectures and discussions are accompanied by a laboratory in which students learn basic acoustical analysis, direct measurement of articulators and perceptual testing techniques.

LING 79200 (SPCH 82800) - Research Methods in Language

Prof. Richard Schwartz

This course will present general principles in research design and methods as they are related to the study of language and related abilities. We will cover methods that examine language production and comprehension including, lexical access and organization, and syntactic processing for production and recognition/comprehension. The methods will include behavioral computer-based tasks, eye tracking, event-related potentials, imaging, and language sample analyses.


LING 83800 - Methods in Computational Linguistics II

Prof. Andrew Rosenberg

Course Description
This is the second 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 are offered by the Graduate Center's Linguistics Program, as well as courses offered by the Computer Science Program.  This course (Methods in Computational Linguistics II) will provide training in: the use of computational libraries built specifically for computational linguistics, the techniques used in performing computational analyses of electronic natural language corpora, and the foundational mathematics, probabilistic methods and statistics that are the backbone of modern computational linguistics. The course will go significantly beyond a survey of these topics. By completing the Methods in Computational Linguistics sequence, at the end of the first year, Computational Linguistics Master's students will have the skills they need to engage in further study of state-of-the-art topics in natural language processing.

LING 86100 - Context, Language Processing, and Individual Differences in SLA

Prof. Beatriz Lado

Course Description
This course explores factors involved in L2 learning by examining research on the role of internal processes (e.g., noticing, attention, awareness), individual differences (e.g., previous language experience, aptitude, working memory, age, motivation), and their interaction with external factors (e.g., degree of explicitness of the instruction, context/environment of acquisition, input and interaction). Specific questions we will try to answer in the course are: How do individual differences affect developmental rates, processes, and outcomes? To what degree do individual differences affect specific aspects of the L2 acquisition (e.g., syntax vs. vocabulary)? How are the effects of external factors modulated by internal processes and individual differences? What universal features of the L2 learner and L2 learning process determine the nature and route of acquisition? Additionally, this course will briefly explore the role that social dimensions play in L2 learning (e.g., social identity, socio-political and socio-cultural contexts)

LING 86100 - Second Language and Loanword Phonology

Prof. Dianne Bradley

Monday, 4:15 to 6:15 PM

Course Description:
Researchers and teachers in second language acquisition standardly remark on the difficulties experienced by adult learners with the pronunciation of a target language, and note that "foreign accent" — however that might be defined — can represent a last and singularly frustrating barrier to native-like command.

This participatory seminar course, chiefly surveying the recent literature, aims to equip students to be "intelligent consumers" (and prospectively, skilled practitioners) of research focused on the interplay of first and second language phonologies, as these are tempered by considerations of biases in production/perception and universal grammar.  We begin by briefly reviewing traditional frameworks, which emphasize maturational constraints on the acquisition of segmental inventories, and proceed to considerations taking in a broader construal of the phonological system to be acquired.  We explore also a complementary literature in loanword phonology, which explores language-specific variation in the segmental and suprasegmental adaptations imposed on word-forms borrowed into a speaker's native language.

The course presupposes no more than a modest background in phonology, e.g., Ling 71300 (Phonology I), and with the instructor's permission, may even be taken by students with more limited exposure to phonology.  There is no recommended textbook for the course.  Instead, assigned readings drawn from the classic and current literatures are assigned, class by class, and made available through an electronic reserves system.

Ling 72700 - Language Aquisition

Prof. Virginia Valian

Course Description:
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; 7-9 November 2014, Boston; it usually has a mid-May deadline for abstracts • ASHA; 20-22 November 2014, Orlando; it has a deadline of 8 April 2014 • LSA; 8-11 January 2015, San Francisco; it usually has an end-July deadline for abstracts
Students are encouraged to identify conferences to which they might submit their work.  For example, both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Arizona have student-run conferences.  A small conference is a good place to start.
6 course objectives; in this course you will:
• Acquire a grounding in the basic issues and controversies in language acquisition • Develop skills for analyzing children's spontaneous language • Learn the basic experimental procedures for testing children's linguistic knowledge • Learn how to analyze research papers • Design a study, resolve a theoretical disagreement, or demonstrate your knowledge of acquisition via a test