First Language Acquisition
How does an infant learn the sounds of her native language? What stages does she go through while stringing together words to form sentences? How does she discover the meaning of words and phrases? We’ll try to answer these questions (and many more) in this course—a general introduction to various aspects of a child’s speedy and comprehensive acquisition of their first language. The course provides an overview of current theoretical models of language acquisition, and includes discussion of the biological determinants of acquisition, the interaction between cognitive and linguistic development, learnability issues, and the role of child-directed speech. In addition, the course will examine the stages and sequences of acquisition, as established through empirical findings. Topics will include: methods of collecting and analyzing child language data; cross-linguistic patterns of acquisition; typical sequences and processes in phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic development; prelinguistic-to-linguistic development of communicative competence; and processing strategies underlying production and comprehension. While most of the examples will be drawn from English acquisition data, reference will be made to the acquisition of other languages from time to time.
This course introduces students to the major research questions motivating the study of the mental processes involved in producing and comprehending language. The course surveys the field of Psycholinguistics from its origins in the 1950s up to recent debates and findings in speech perception, the mental lexicon, syntactic processing, pragmatics and conversation. Students will be introduced to primary experimental research in the form of journal articles, which they learn to read critically from the perspective of linguistic and psychological theory.
Language and the Brain
This course focuses on the relationship between the human brain, comprehension, production, and acquisition of language. We examine questions like: What are the mental processes that underlie language? What brain structures are associated with language? How do the properties of neural structures influence language processing? We focus on methods as much as conclusions, so students read a variety of primary research articles from the field. The course follows the speech chain beginning with basic audition, speech perception, and phonological processing, into higher levels of syntactic and semantic processing. The course concludes with a survey of a variety of speech and/or language disorders, such as aphasias, delayed language development, dyslexia, deafness, and language dissolution in old age.
Phonetics & Phonology:
Speech perception and sound change
In this seminar we will explore the nature of speech perception explanations for why sound systems look the way they do and why certain phonological phenomena are more common than others. Since at least the 19th century linguists have concerned with the speaker-hearer relationship and the force it exerts on the directions of sound change (e.g., Baudoin de Courtenay, Paul Passy). We will build on this tradition by examining more recent developments in theoretical approaches to what is called phonetically based phonology. Our readings will establish an intellectual history of this line of thinking, covering a variety of theoretical positions (e.g., Lindblom's H & H theory, Ohala's theory of misperception, Kingston & Diehl's notion of phonetic knowledge, and Blevins' Evolutionary Phonology among others) that each propose well-dened, though not necessarily compatible, roles for speech production and perception in patterns of sounds. We will quickly engage with experimental evidence supporting these theoretical positions. Our task will be to examine (critique/support) each of these studies with an eye towards experimental technique, phonological history (and to some extent synchrony), and the predictions implied by the authors' conclusions. Some issues we will consider are whether phonetic factors in phonology are teleological, whether the speakers' and listeners' contributions to the structure of sound systems are complementary or at odds with each other, and whether speaker "diculties" and listener "mistakes" are as important in sound change as they're often claimed to be.