Linguistics 170: Psycholinguistics (Spring 2012)

1 Course information

Lecture TimesTuTh 11:00am-12:20pm
Lecture LocationWarren Lecture Hall (WLH) 2204
Section TimeWed 11-12am
Section LocationAP&M Room 4301
Class webpage

2 Instructor information

InstructorRoger Levy (
Instructor's officeAP&M Room 4220
Instructor's office hoursFridays 10:15am-12:15pm
Teaching Assistants (TAs)Chris Barkley and Bethany Keffala
TA office hoursTuesdays 9:30-10:30am (Chris); Thursdays 12:30-1:30pm (Bethany)
TA officesAP&M Room 3351E (Chris); AP&M Room 3351A (Bethany)

3 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.

4 Course organization

The twice-weekly course meetings will be a mixture of lectures, group discussions, and student presentations. There will also be an optional review section held on Wednesdays 11am-12pm.

4.1 Classroom Etiquette

During lectures and student presentations, interrupting (politely!) to ask questions is highly encouraged – please raise your hand and I (or the student presenters) will call on you.

The use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones is NOT PERMITTED in this classroom. Electronic screens serve as a barrier between you and me. Worse, they can be a terrible distraction to students sitting near you. If you are used to taking notes on your laptop or a tablet, please just bring traditional pen and paper instead, and then transfer your notes to your computer after class. (The extra time you take to do this will actually improve your retention of the subject material anyway.)

5 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.

6 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.

7 Textbook

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 (Blackboard) 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 Ted/Blackboard from another class (in years past it was called WebCT); if you aren't, poke around at

9 Discussion boards

There will be discussion boards on the course's Ted 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 Ted 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.

10 Syllabus (subject to modification)

WeekDayTopicGroup PresentationsReading MaterialsHomework Assignments
Week 13 AprClass Introduction: what is psycholinguistics? Admin. Beginning of linguistics review.Harley Ch 1, Altmann Ch 1Beginning of Class Survey (Ted)
5 AprComplete linguistics review.Harley Ch 2, Altmann Ch 4Report presentation groups you have formed (by 6 April)
Week 210 AprWord recognition IHarley Ch 6 (pp. 167–192), Altmann Ch 6Report paper your group has decided to present
12 AprWord recognition IIHarley Ch 6 (pp. 192–208)
Week 317 AprSpeech perception IErnesto, Lia, John, RouminaHarley Ch 9 (pp. 257–267), Altmann Ch 3
19 AprSpeech perception IIJeanne, Ji-hye, McKenzie, Olga, MarsiHarley Ch 9 (pp. 267–283), Altmann Ch 5
Week 424 AprReadingSandra, Allen, Suhwan, NasserHarley Ch 7 & 8, Altmann Ch 11
26 AprComprehension IRebekah, Alana, Jessica, Jonathan, ShannonAltmann Ch 7
Week 51 MayComprehension IIHarley Ch 10 (pp. 287–301)
3 MayComprehension III (given by Chris Barkley)Harley Ch 10 (pp. 301–319), Altmann Ch 8
Week 68 MayComprehension IVElena, Samantha, Anne, BethanyHarley Ch 12 (pp. 361–373)
10 MayComprehension VBrendan, ClariceHarley Ch 12 (pp. 373–392)
Week 715 MayLanguage meaning: representation and processing IJacqueline, Jacqueline, Michael, JohnAltmann Ch 9, Harley Ch 11 (pp. 321–340)
17 MayLanguage meaning: representation and processing IIAmy, Grace, Alexis, Daniel; Abbey, Cynthia, Sheenah, MariaHarley Ch 11 (pp. 340–360)
Week 822 MayLanguage production ISheava, Candy, Jeongho, Dimitri; Ksenia, Sarah, Jenny, IvanaAltmann Ch 10, Harley Ch 13 (pp. 397–404)
24 MayLanguage production IIAnna, Colleen, Lisa, Tasha; Justin, Andrew, MichaelHarley Ch 13 (pp. 404–428)
Week 929 MayLanguage production IIIBridget, Esmeralda, Meena; Amy Fisher, Laura, William, Brianna BlumenthalHarley Ch 13 (pp. 428–450)
31 MayNeural methods in the study of language comprehensionBrianna Roberts, Julie, CarlosFedorenko & Kanwisher 2009, Kutas & Federmeier 2009
Week 105 JunBilingualism and second language acquisitionAnnie, Fang-Fang, Tiffany, Isaac; Shir-Lee, Sammi, CamilleHarley Ch 5, Altmann Ch 9
7 JunCourse wrapup
Finals12 JunLast review paper due at 5pm

11 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 Ted 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). The one exception to this policy is that for discussion about group presentations or group or individual review papers, please do use email to stay in touch with us, but please send all emails to; otherwise the email may get lost.

12 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.

12.1 Examples of academic integrity violations

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

;; - Copying from or looking on to a neighbor's exam during the midterm or final.

  • Copying a friend or roommate's homework assignment.
  • Changing a graded homework assignment or exam and returning it for a regrade.
  • Smuggling notes into a closed-book exam.
  • Finding the answer key to a homework assignment (e.g., on the Web) and copying it.
  • Giving a false reason (e.g., death of a relative) for missing an exam or turning in an assignment late.

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

13 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 requiring that you keep a weekly journal of your reflections on the readings and course material. You will post each of your journal entries on the Ted 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 8 journal entries throughout the course of the quarter; each journal entry must be posted by 10:30am 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 10:30am on 26 April.

    The journal entries will be worth 3% each for a total of 30% 24% of your grade. You will receive full credit for every on time journal entry that substantially engages with course material in some way. You do not need to engage with the entire assigned reading; although I expect you to do the entire reading, a successful journal entry will focus on only some subset of the reading (either on one topic or integrating a set of topic from the reading). A successful journal entry will also have a single, clearly focused theme, rather than being a disconnected set of observations.

    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 in class. You can read our summary of journal entry dos and don'ts here.

    Note on technical problems that may arise with journal entry submissions

    I do understand that Blackboard is imperfect software, and that odd errors crop up when you're doing something you think should be totally simple. However, if you wait until just before the submission deadline to enter your journal entry, then this is a risk that you take upon yourself. I highly recommend that you write the entry in a text editor or word processor, then copy and paste it into the Blackboard journal entry box after it's done. Ideally you should do this sufficiently before the journal-entry submission deadline that if Ted gives you an error upon submission, you can restart your browser and try again. If you continue to have difficulties, you can certainly email your journal entry to me and the TA with an explanation that you were having difficulties with Blackboard. But you'll have to send this email before the submission deadline!

  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 group 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, this one to be completed individually, (6-8 pages) on a psycholinguistics research article of your choice. This will count for 35% of your grade.
  5. Constructing a set of stimuli for a sentence-acceptability experiment. You will get some hands-on experience in constructing experimental materials for psycholinguistics studies: we will give you an experiment design for investigating the effect of differing syntactic structures on intuitive sentence acceptability for native speakers, and you will come up with sentence stimuli (i.e., materials) for this experiment design. (Eventually we will actually run the experiment and analyze the results, too!) This assignment will happen in two phases – Phase 1 due May 7 and Phase 2 due May 31 – and will be worth 6% of your grade.
  6. 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 6 June, 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 on some topic covered in the class (1000-1500 words). The due date for such a paper is June 7, 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 one of his teaching assistants by May 8 – 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.

14 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 12 June.

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).

14.1 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. Finally, by asking for any of your work to be re-graded you take on the risk that we will notice a problem that we had not noticed before, and actually end up giving you a lower grade than you were originally awarded. So we encourage you to bring any necessary regrades to our attention, but for your own sake you should do so only when you're fairly confident that we really did give you less credit than you deserve. (For example, you may want to compare your work & grade with that of your classmates first.) Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Date: 2012-05-15 10:09:56 PDT

Author: Roger Levy

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