LING611: Psychological background to linguistic theories (2021)

  • Instructor: Brian Dillon & Shota Momma
  • Location: Zoom
  • Time: MW 4:00pm – 5:15pm

Course overview

This course is an introductory-level course in psycholinguistics. We will investigate linguistic computation in language perception and production, in the context of broader debates in cognitive science, such as the role of abstraction, categorization and probability, and the various architectural properties of information processing systems (modularity vs. interactivity, structure sensitivity, serial vs. parallel computation, etc.). We will examine these issues applied to language use in diverse contexts, from speech perception to the understanding of language in discourse. We will pay particular attention to how these issues interface with topics in other areas of linguistic theory, and broad perspectives on the relationship between mental grammar and real-time language processing and production.

As part of the course, students will be introduced to some of the core technical tools in the psycholinguist’s toolkit, including working with common software for programming experiments, and the analysis and presentation of experimental data.


  • Attendance (10%): Attend biweekly class meetings, having read the required reading (see the schedule below).
  • Presentations (20%): Give two presentations on the required readings, and one presentation on your final project.
  • Lab assignments (20%): Details will be communicated in class, but you will be asked to complete two lab assignments, one on categorical perception in speech, and the other on syntactic priming in production.
  • Final project (50%): Write an APA-style literature review, a theoretical paper, or an experimental proposal as your final paper (10-15 pages, double-spaced).

Schedule (tentative)

DateTopicReadingsLab activitiesSlides
Introduction: Competence and performanceMarr (1982): Chapter 1
Chomsky (1965): Chapter 1
Phillips (1996): Chapter 5
Abstraction and categorizationDiehl et al. (2004)
Pisoni & Tash (1974)
Lab 1 introductionSlides
Abstraction and categorizationMcMurray et al. (2002)Lab 1 check-inSlides
Storage vs. computationVitevich & Luce (1999)

Norris et al. (2002)
Storage vs. computationSprenger et al. (2006)Lab 1 dueSlides
Abstraction in syntaxBock & Loebell (1990)
Ziegler et al. (2019)
NoneLab 2 introduction
Interactivity & competitionMarslen-Wilson (1987)
Dahan (2010)
Interactivity & competitionCutting & Ferreira (1992)
Morsella & Miozzo (2002)
Interactivity & competitionTrueswell (1994)
Clifton et al. (2003)
Interactivity & competitionFerreira (1996)
Dell & O'Seaghdha (1994)
Interactivity & competitionStaub et al. (2018)
Pizarro-Guevara & Wagers (2020)
Lab 2 check-in
Lab 2 discussionNoneLab 2 due
Grammar in real timePhillips et al. (2011)
Wagers et al. (2009)
3/24Grammar in real timeFerreira & Swets (2005)
3/29Grammar in real timeMomma & Yoshida (in prep)
3/31MeaningGleitman et al. (2007)
Bunger et al (2013)
4/5MeaningFerreira (2019)Lab 3 introduction
4/7Meaning in contextTanenhaus et al. (1995)
Sedivy et al. (1999)
4/12Meaning in contextHuang & Snedeker (2009)
Grodner et al. (2010)
4/14GradienceHale (2001)
Levy (2013)
4/19GradienceArmstrong & Gleitman (1983)
Bresnan & Nikitinna (2008)
Morgan & Levy (2016)
4/21Presentation/Joint discussion with Gaja's classTBA
4/26Presentation/Joint discussion with Gaja's classTBALab 3 due
4/28Presentation/Joint discussion with Gaja's classTBA