Ling 83: Language, Structure, and Cognition


Course Info

Instructor Lecture Day/Time Lecture Hall Email Office Hours Office
Masoud Jasbi Mon/Wed, 10:30-11:45am Harvard Hall 102 (FAS) Thu, 1:15-2:45pm [Book a Slot!] Boylston Hall G23
Teaching Fellows Section Day/Time Classroom Email Office Hours Office
Shannon Bryant Thu, 10:30-11:45am Emerson 318 Mon, 4:30-5:45pm [Book a Slot!] Boylston Hall 433
Lukas Kahl Thu 1:30-2:45 Boylston Hall 335 Mon, 9-10:15am [Book a Slot!] Boylston Hall G02
Yingtong Liu Wed 6-7pm Lamont library 240 Mon, 9:15-10:15am [Book a Slot!] Sever Hall 105


Week Month Date Topic Content Readings
1 Sep 3 Labor Day
5 Language & Science Discussion: Language & Science, Review the Syllabus Textbook Ch. 1
2 10 Morphology content vs. function words, morpheme, affixes, derivation, inflection, productivity, morphological rules, compounds Textbook Ch. 2
3 17 Syntax syntactic rules, grammaticality, constituency, syntactic categories, phrase structure, recursion, structural ambiguity, Universal Grammar Textbook Ch. 3
4 24 Phonetics phonetic alphabet, consonants, vowels, prosody, intonation Textbook Ch. 5
5 Oct 1 Phonology allomorphs, phoneme, complementary distribution, phonological rules, syllable structure, stress Textbook Ch. 6
6 8 Indigenous Peoples' Day / Columbus Day
10 Language Change Guest Lecture: Lukas and Zac Textbook Ch. 8
7 15 Language & Meaning truth, entailment, ambiguity, compositionality, semantic rules, metaphor, idiom, context, implicature, presupposition, speech acts Textbook Ch. 4
8 22 Language & Society Guest Lecture: Danny Erker Erker (2017): The limits of named language varieties and the role of social salience in dialectal contact
24 dialect, variation, language and gender, language and SES, pidgins and creoles, bilingualism Textbook Ch. 7
9 29 Midterm
31 Language & Culture Words for numbers. Guest Lecture: Ted Gibson Gordon (2004)
Frank, Everett, Fedorenko, Gibson (2009): Number as a cognitive technology
Piantadosi, Jara-Ettinger & Gibson (2014)
10 Nov 5 Language & Communication Guest Lecture: Roger Levy Levy (2015): Memory and surprisal in sentence comprehension
7 Language & Modality Guest Lecture: Kate Davidson Newport & Supalla (2000):
Sign language research at the millenium
11 12 Language & the Mind Efficiency in language use predicts language structure.
Guest Lecture: Ted Gibson
Piantedosi et al. (2011)
Futrell et al (2015)
Gibson et al. (2017)
14 Guest Lecture: Alfonso Caramazza Ding et al. (2017): Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech
12 19 Language & Science The language of science, the language of the news, the role of language in creating misinformation about scientific research Textbook Ch. 10;
Frank & Christiansen (2018): A response to Ding et al. (2017)
NYU news release of the Ding et al paper.
21 Thanksgiving Break
14 26 Language & Learning How do children learn language? Saffran, Aslin, Newport (1996):
Statistical Learning by 8-month-old infants
28 Language & Computers Guest Lecture: Alexander Rush Textbook Ch. 11
13 Dec 3 Language & Society Guest Lecture: Cristina Aggazzotti Rickford & King (2016): Language and Linguistics on Trial
5 Language & Evolution Guest Lecture: Ray Jackendoff Jackendoff & Wittenberg (2017): Linear grammar as a possible stepping-stone in the evolution of language
15 10 Reading Period
12 Exam Period

Textbook and Learning Tools

Textbook An Introduction to Language (11th Edition) Tools Canvas, mainly for assignments.
By Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams Piazza for (anonymous) questions, comments. and discussions
Wadsworth. Cengage Learning.

Course Objectives

Objective Course Component
1 Introduce some major topics in the scientific study of language and cognition Readings, Lectures
2 Introduce leading research(ers) in language sciences Readings, (Guest) Lectures
3 Practice critical and scientific thinking Argument Map, Comprehension Forum
4 Practice basic linguistic analysis Problems sets, Midterm, Final Exam
5 Understand the basics of experimental design Argument Maps, Final Exam


Community Care 9.5% Attendance 4% Physical presence during lectures and sections, as well as being on-time.
Participation 5.5% Asking questions and participating in discussions (classroom, section, online). Showing that you care about your own and your classmates' education.
Critical & Scientific Thinking 18.5% Comprehension Forum 6.5% Starting on week 2, submit two comprehension questions on Canvas (Discussion Section) about the week's readings by Monday before class. By Wednesday, provide two short answers to two of the questions asked by your classmates (not your own questions). Each question should receive one answer. Make sure when you post your question, it is substantially different from what is asked by others.
Argument Map 12% Maximum one page argument map of the following papers:
1. Frank, Everett, Fedorenko, Gibson (2009): Number as a cognitive technology
2. Ding et al. (2017): Cortical tracking of hierarchical linguistic structures in connected speech
3. Saffran, Aslin, & Newport (1996): Statistical Learning by 8-month-old infants

This article by Elysium Health and this article by ASPB are good guides on how to approach and understand scientific journal articles.
Take a look at this introduction to what argument maps are.
Linguistic Analysis 72%
Problem Sets 24% 6 total, due on Mondays. Details and submission in Canvas.
Midterm 18% Take-home exam.
Final 30% Take-home exam. Similar to the midterm exam with the addition of an argument map you create for a short paper.
Late Submission Late assignments will be graded as though they were not late, but then 5% of the grade earned will be deducted for each day the assignment is late, with a maximum penalty of 50%. All late work must be turned in by the Friday before your final exam. This policy can be waived if lateness is due to medical reasons or other special circumstances. If you you believe such special circumstances apply to you, please put us in contact with your resident dean so that we can discuss the appropriate extension for you.
Submission Format Submit your assignments using Canvas. Files should be in PDF. Typed assignments should use Times New Roman (12pt), 1 inch margins, 1.5 line spacing. Handwritten assignments must follow similar margins and spacing and must be legible. If the answer cannot be determined due to illegibility, no points are assigned to that answer. Do not include your name or any identifying information in the assignment. In order to avoid grading biases, assignments are graded anonymously.
Grading We use the following grading scale:
A = 100-94, A- = 93-90, B+ = 89-87, B = 86-84, B- = 83-80, C+ = 79-77, C = 76-74, C- = 73-70, D+ = 69-67, D = 66-65, E = 64-0
For any submission, if you believe there have been grading mistakes, you can ask for re-grading. The assignment will be graded by a new grader and the second grade will be recorded.
Divisional Distribution Ling 83 is listed as belonging to the Arts and Humanities division. This means that Ling 83 will automatically count as an Arts & Humanities divisional course. During the three-year 2016-2019 transition from the current General Education requirements to the new General Education requirements, Gen Ed has been allowing students to use divisional courses to fulfill some of the current Gen Ed requirements (see here ). But importantly, it has also been agreed that during the transition (until the Fall 2019), Ling 83 can alternatively count as a Social Science divisional course. However, it cannot count towards both Arts & Humanities and Social Sciences. If you want Ling 83 to count as a Social Sciences divisional course, you should contact the Gen Ed office (click here) and they will update their Academic Advising Report accordingly.
Integrity We follow the Academic Integrity Policy, which discusses collaboration on homework and expectations for reading responses and exams. You are permitted to work together on the assignments (but not for midterm and the final exam). However, you must write up and submit your own unique assignment.
Accessibility Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Accessible Education Office (AEO). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare a letter for the faculty. Students should contact the AEO as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations.
Participation We believe that our class benefits enormously from you sharing your thoughts and questions. Your background, life experiences, knowledge, thoughts, and ideas make you unique, and our classroom diverse. This diversity of perspectives is the foundation of learning in a classroom. At a larger scale and within a scientific community, it is also a major contributor to scientific progress. Therefore, sharing your thoughts and questions can help us learn and build a wider, stronger community of scholars.
Questions We genuinly believe that there are no stupid questions in a classroom. We are all learning together here and questions are our best tool. It is easy to show that your question will help us learn no matter what. Your question is either:
(1) not framed well; in which case you give us a chance to explain the topic better. Chances are we did not explain it well the first time and many of your classmates are wondering about it too.
(2) framed well and has an answer we know; in which case we can help you as well as your classmates who have the same question learn it too! You have also helped us consolidate our knowledge by explaining it again.
(3) framed well but has an answer we do not know; in which case we can find the answer together and your question has helped all of us learn!
(4) framed well and does not have an answer yet; in which case you found a research topic someone can start working on and benefit the field!
As you see, your question has helped our learning either way. So please ask! Please wonder!

Sometimes instructors or students worry that asking too many questions may halt class progress. Judging when to ask a question is tricky but also part of what we need to learn. This is a useful wikihow article that starts with some obvious tips but ends with really good ones! Ultimately, we trust you to decide whether asking a question is halting the class progress or not.