Linguistics 170: Psycholinguistics (Spring 2009)

Course information

Lecture Times TuTh 2-3:20pm
Lecture Location York Hall, Room 4080A
Section Time Tuesdays 1-1:50pm
Section Location AP&M Room 2452
Class webpage

Instructor information

Instructor Roger Levy (
Instructor's office AP&M Room 4220
Instructor's office hours Tuesdays 10-12am
Teaching Assistants (TAs) Dan Michel (
TA's office hours Fridays 1-1:50pm
TA's office AP&M Room 3331A

Course Description

This is an introduction to psycholinguistics, the study of how humans learn, represent, comprehend, and produce language. Topics covered in the course will include visual and auditory recognition of words, sentence comprehension, reading, sentence production, language acquisition, neural representation of language, bilingualism, and language disorders.

Course organization

The biweekly course meetings will be a mixture of lectures, group discussions, and student presentations. During lectures and student presentations, interrupting (politely!) to ask questions is highly encouraged. There will also be an optional review section held at a time TBA.

Intended Audience

Upper-division students interested in language and the mind. Students should have taken Linguistics 101 (Introduction to the Study of Language), Psychology 105 (Cognitive Psychology), both, or the equivalent of at least one. If this doesn't describe you, talk to the instructor.

Course objectives

By the end of this course you should have a solid understanding of both the research methodologies used in psycholinguistics and many of the well-established major findings in the field. You should also have achieved a degree of confidence in reading and critiquing original psycholinguistics research articles.


The following textbook is required for the class:

Harley, Trevor. 2008. The psychology of language: from data to theory. Psychology Press. Third edition.

This is a highly detailed text covering the major topics of psycholinguistics. You should budget quite a bit of time for reading the assigned chapters as it is a fairly densely written book. It has many references for further reading in all subfields of psycholinguistics. If you are interested in other developments in a particular subfield, please ask the TA or instructor.

The following book is also highly recommended:

Altmann, Gerry T. M. 1997. The ascent of Babel: an exploration of language, mind, and understanding. Oxford.

This book is more of a general introduction to psycholinguistics, written for the lay reader. Most of the time, you will find it beneficial to do the suggested reading from Altmann first and then do the required reading from Harley.


We will be using WebCT for administering homework assignments and various surveys, and as a discussion forum for all participants in the class. Most of you should be familiar with WebCT from another class; if you aren't, take a look at

Discussion boards

There will be discussion boards on the course WebCT site for the major topics covered in this class. If you have a question about course content that may be relevant to other students in the course, we strongly encourage you to post it to the WebCT discussion board for this class. We encourage you to read the discussion boards regularly, and if you know the answer to a question, to post the answer! Active, positive contributions to the discussion boards will be given favorable consideration in determining final grades.

Syllabus (subject to modification)

Week Day Topic Reading Materials Group Presentations Homework Assignments
Week 1 31 Mar Class Introduction: what is psycholinguistics? Admin. Beginning of linguistics review. Harley Ch 1, Altmann Ch 1 Lecture 1 Slides Beginning of Class Survey (WebCT)
2 Apr Complete linguistics review. Harley Ch 2, Altmann Ch 4
Week 2 7 Apr Word recognition I Harley Ch 6 (pp. 167—192), Altmann Ch 6
9 Apr Word recognition II Harley Ch 6 (pp. 192—208)
Week 3 14 Apr Complete word recognition; Speech perception I Harley Ch 9 (pp. 257—267), Altmann Ch 3
16 Apr Speech perception II Harley Ch 9 (pp. 267—283), Altmann Ch 5
Week 4 21 Apr Complete speech perception
23 Apr Reading Harley Ch 7 & 8 Kristi, Christina, Augi, Tina: dyslexia
Week 5 28 Apr Comprehension I Altmann Ch 7
30 Apr Comprehension II Harley Ch 10 (pp. 297—301)
Week 6 5 May Comprehension III Harley Ch 10 (pp. 301—319), Altmann Ch 8 Meghan, Daniel, Elena
7 May Comprehension IV Harley Ch 12 (pp. 361—373)
Week 7 12 May Comprehension V Harley Ch 12 (pp. 373—392) Erin, Faith, Emma, Angel: syntactic priming
14 May Language production I (Dan Michel lectures) Altmann Ch 10, Harley Ch 13 (pp. 397—404)
Week 8 19 May Language production II Harley Ch 13 (pp. 404—428) Eric, Jaclyn, Alexandria, Vivian: speech errors
21 May Language production III Harley Ch 13 (pp. 428—450) Ryan, Hannah, Kelly, Jeffrey: Writing & agraphia; Matthew, Joseph, Caitlin, Amanda: Aphasia
Week 9 26 May Language meaning: representation and processing I Harley Ch 11 Emily, Tiffanie, Paul, Gresia: Second-language acquisition
28 May Bilingualism and second language acquisition (guest lecture by Sarah Callahan) Harley Ch 5
Week 10 2 Jun Neurolinguistics (guest lecture by Professor Robert Kluender) Altmann Ch 9, Harley Ch 14
4 Jun Language meaning: representation and processing II Michael, Mary, Caroline, Richard: Second-language acquisition; Jacob, Aaron, Andrew, Laura: Inferences in Conversation
Finals 9 Jun Last review paper due at 5pm

Instructor contact policy

Coming to talk to the instructor or TA during their office hours is highly encouraged. Electronic communications about course content should be made through the WebCT discussion board (see above). We ask that you use email contact only for communications that are not relevant to other students (e.g., specific learning circumstances or medical/personal emergency).

Academic Integrity

Please take some time to read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. We will be conducting this course in full accordance with this policy. In particular, any suspected cheating or plagiarism in the course will be taken very seriously and investigated. If we determine that cheating or plagiarism has taken place, it will be reported to UCSD's Office of the Academic Integrity Coordinator, in accordance with UCSD policy. Please note that it is not at our discretion whether or not to report instances of academic dishonesty: we are obligated by UCSD policy to report such instances.

Examples of academic integrity violations

Here are some examples of academic integrity violations. DO NOT DO THESE!!!

This is not an exhaustive list — please read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and use your common sense!

Requirements & grading

Your grade will be based on five criteria:

1. Weekly journal. There are no mid-term or final exams in this course, but instead I am requiringthat you keep a weekly journal of your reflections on the readings and course material. You will post each of your journal entries on the WebCT class website. They will be publicly visible there, and other students are free to comment (respectfully and thoughtfully, of course) on them.

You'll need to post a total of 10 journal entries throughout the course of the quarter; each journal entry must be posted by 1:30pm on the day of the relevant course. For example, if you are writing your entry on a topic to be covered on the first day of our coverage of sentence comprehension, you must post your entry by 1:30pm on April 23.

The journal entries will be worth 3% each for a total of 30% of your grade. You will receive full credit for every on time journal entry that substantially engages with course material in some way. A journal entry that is posted late or only summarizes the contents of a reading will receive zero credit. My goal as an instructor is for everyone in the course to receive full credit on your journal entries, so please help me in this endeavor by doing the reading on time, thinking about it, and writing about it!

Each journal entry should be 200-300 words. I will show you a sample journal entry on Thursday, April 2.

2. An in-class group presentation on a specific topic covered in the course, highlighting a particular published research article chosen by the group. There are many, many articles referenced in the Harley and Altmann books, so you should be able to find a selection of articles of interest to you. Some articles may be unsuitable for review, so please clear your preferred choice of article with either the TA or the instructor. This will count for 15% of your grade.

3. A review paper (10-12 pages) on the topic and research article your group has presented on, to be written jointly by all members of the group. This will count for 15% of your grade.

4. Another review paper (6-8 pages) on a psycholinguistics research article of your choice, this one to be completed individually. This will count for 35% of your grade.

5. One of the two following options (5% of your grade; no extra credit for doing both!):

a. Participation in four hours of the Human Subject Pool ( each hour of participation counts as 1% of your grade, plus a 1% bonus for participation in all four hours. You are encouraged to participate in language-related experiments, and to participate in these experiments early—the last day for participation is 3 December, and there is no guarantee that there will be experiment slots open for participation in the latest part of the quarter.

b. Writing a research paper (1000-1500 words) on some topic covered in the class. The due date for such a paper is June 2, and no late papers will be accepted. If you choose this option, you must discuss it and get an OK on your research topic from Professor Levy or his teaching assistant, Dan Michel, by May 2— before writing the paper and turning it in.

In addition, positive participation in classroom discussion (including asking well-thought-out questions) will be rewarded—-your final grade may get bumped up a notch if it is borderline.

Homework grading policy

Homework assignments and review papers may be turned in up to six days late, but they will be downgraded 10% per day. Furthermore, nothing may be turned in after June 9.

Exceptions to the late policy will only be granted for medical or personal emergencies, and the instructor or his TA must be notified as soon as possible (not several days after the emergency is over).

Regrading/correction policy

We all make mistakes—TAs and professors as well as students—so please do look over your returned work. In addition to helping ensure that you get the credit you deserve, this checking will improve your retention of the material. However, there is a statute of limitations: all grading mistakes must be brought to our attention within one week of our returning the work. This prevents us from getting a backlog of corrections at the end of the quarter, which would interfere with the time-consuming activities of preparing lectures and grading. Thank you in advance for your cooperation!