LINGUIST697K: Introduction to Psycholinguistics

Who Brian Dillon & Shota Momma

When Tuesday / Thursday 4-5:15PM

Where ILC N458

Course overview: This course is a one semester introduction to the field of psycholinguistics, aimed at students in linguistics. What is psycholinguistics? Broadly put, psycholinguistics is the study of how humans acquire, produce, and comprehend language. In this class, we will attempt to study language as a cognitive object, and from this perspective, try and understand the human language faculty and how it is used in speaking and listening behavior.

Psycholinguistics can appear to be an unruly subfield: it is aggressively interdisciplinary, sitting at the intersection of linguistics, psychology, human development, neuroscience, and computer science. We will not shy away from this in this course. Instead, we will lean in, and draw upon all of these disciplines in this course.

We will not attempt to be comprehensive in this course. Instead, we will sample a range of topics to illustrate some of the key questions, key findings, and key concepts, with a special focus on language production and comprehension at the level of the sentence. Along the way, we will see a range of experimental approaches, and review critical theories. Across the course, we will return to several themes across all these areas:

  • The top-down, predictive nature of linguistic computation: We will see evidence that speakers are active participants in real-time language use.
  • The cognitive architectures that support grammatical processing: We will explore the ways in which grammatical computation are isolated from, or interface with, other areas of cognition.

Course requirements

Enrolled students will be expected to:

  • Attend biweekly classes, and come ready to discuss assigned readings on each lecture day.
  • Prepare an annotated bibliography in the form of six QALMRI write-ups over the course of the semester.
  • Develop an individual research project in concert with one (or both!) of the instructors and turn in a final paper detailing this project.

Course notes & Slides

We will rely heavily on slides to facilitate classroom discussion and present the material. We are psycholingusits, after all. But there are running course notes that we will elaborate over the course of the semester, which you might find useful.

You may find the course notes here

You may find the course slides here

Reading and QALMRI

For each class below, students are expected to do the assigned readings and be ready to discuss. Readings are a mix of overviews or summaries of a given topic, and more focused empirical / experimental papers.

In addition to keeping up with required reading, students must choose six of the empirical papers (marked as QC for ‘QALMRI candidate’), and prepare a QALMRI-style summary of the paper. If you wish to do a given paper as a QALMRI option, that write-up is due the day that it appears on the class schedule.

Please click on this link for a discussion of what a QALMRI summary is. For this class, a QALMRI summary will consist of a 1-2 page write-up that includes separate sections for all six major components of a QALMRI write-up: Question, Alternatives, Logic, Method, Results, and Inferences. Your QALMRI write-ups together form the basis of an annotated bibliography, which will be helpful for you in future research.

We encourage you to select papers that will be helpful to you in laying the groundwork for your final project. Please note that there are way more QC papers than we can plausibly cover in the course; this is primarily so you have more options to select from. However, you may request a different paper in lieu of one of the options below if you would like; please email Shota and Brian with any such requests in advance of the due date.

CUNY Special Project

The CUNY Human Sentence Processing conference will take place at UMass Amherst from 319 - 321 (during Spring Break). CUNY is the premier North American venue for sentence processing research, and it’s a real opportunity for us to have it here. We will take advantage of this in this class, and we highly recommend you save the dates so you can attend!

Before CUNY, please prepare a list of 3 posters and/or talks that are relevant to your final project, and which you will attend during the conference. We will share them in class on Wednesday March 11th. After the conference, we would like you to share with us a brief write-up that summarizes what you learned at each. The write-up should include one short paragraph per poster / talk, and for each, describe i) your main takeaway from the poster/talk and ii) one question you were left with after the poster/talk. Your write-up is due on Wednesday, March 25th.

We understand that not everyone will be there during Spring Break. However, this assignment is still required if you cannot attend CUNY in person; meet with Shota and/or Brian to discuss how to access presentations at CUNY if you cannot be there in person.

Final project

One important goal for this course is to allow you to develop your own psycholinguistic interests in the context of an individual project developed in the class. The course material is intended to give you a broad overview of the field, as well as some basics of lab work and data analysis in two hands-on labs. But the real contribution in this course for your research program is giving you an opportunity to develop your own research interests within the topics of this class.

We will do this with a final term paper that should ideally comprise a mini literature review in your area of choosing, and a proposal for a novel experiment. If you intend to do an experimental GP, your final project should involve the collection of pilot data.

Please meet with either Shota or Brian (or both!) early on to identify an area for your term paper. We anticipate that a full term paper will be a full-semester endeavor, including background reading, literature review, and the collection of pilot data. And why not get started early? This is probably the most fun part of the class!

You will also give a presentation of your final project. Please click here to see final project presentation suggestions

There are three major deadlines for the final project across the course of the semester:

  • Tuesday March 3rd: Meet with Shota and/or Brian to identify a topic of interest.
  • Tuesday April 2nd: Present Shota and Brian with a QALMRI-style proposal for your project.
  • Saturday May 9th: Present Shota and Brian with the final write-up of your term project.

Course schedule

Date Topic Required Readings Optional readings & Course material
W 122 Introduction: Competence, performance, the grammar in action Chomsky (1965), Ch. 1, Lewis & Phillips (2015)
M 127 Speech perception: Categorization QC: Pisoni & Tash (1974) QC: Näätänen et al. (1997) QC: Stager and Werker (1997)
W 129 Speech perception: Categorization & Phonological categories QC: Kazanina et al (2006a) QC: Bowers et al (2016), QC: Samuels (2020)
M 23 Speech perception: Lab prep Colin Phillips’ Lab 1: Speech Perception
W 25 Lexical access: Activation & selection Dahan (2010), QC: Allopenna et al (1998)
M 210 Lexical access: Activation & selection & prediction Staub (2015), QC: Staub et al. (2015) QC: Dikker et al (2009)
W 212 Parsing syntax: The garden path van Gompel (2013) QC: Frazier & Rayner (1982), QC: van Gompel et al. (2005)
Tu 218 Parsing syntax: Working memory and dependency formation QC: Lewis & Vasishth (2005) Wolf & Gibson (2003)
W 219 Probabilistic parsing: Expectations QC: Hale (2001) QC: Linzen & Jaeger (2015), QC: Staub et al. (2018)
M 224 Probabilistic parsing: Anti-locality and head-finality Vasishth (2010), QC: Vasishth & Lewis (2006) QC: Aoshima et al (2004)
M 32 Prediction: Why do we care? Ferreira & Chantavarin (2018), Kuperberg & Jaeger (2016)
W 34 Prediction: Anticipating structure QC: Staub & Clifton (2005) QC: Levy et al. (2013)
M 39 Prediction: Syntax-Discourse Interface QC: Sedivy et al (1999) QC: Xiang & Kuperberg (2015), QC: Clifton & Frazier (2012), QC: Sedivy (2003)
W 311 CUNY Preparation CUNY website
M 323 No class
W 325 Introduction to Experimental Design Muller & Phillips (2020); QC: Parker & Phillips (2015)
M 330 Introduction to PC Ibex and online data collection PC Ibex Tutorial
W 41 Experimental Design Workshop Example PC Ibex script, Stimuli CS for script
M 46 Workshop on analyzing speeded judgment data Simple R script; RMarkdown file for class; Raw datafile
W 48 More data analysis using R
M 413 Introduction to production methods Bock (1996)
W 415 Models of language production Levelt et al. 2019
W 422 Models of language production Ferreira et al (2019)
M 427 Student presentations No Reading
W 429 Student presentations Presentation party
Brian Dillon
Associate Professor

I am a psycholinguist who studies syntax, semantics, working memory, and sentence comprehension.