Psych 2150 - CogSt 2150 - Ling 2215: Psychology of Language

Psychology of Language

Psych/CogSt 2150 - Ling 2215
Spring 2017
Place: 251 Malott Hall
Time: TR 10:10 - 11:25 AM

Instructor: Dr. Morten H. Christiansen

Office: 228 Uris Hall
Office hours: Tuesdays 11:30AM - 1:00PM
Dr. Christiansen's home page
Dr. Christiansen's Lab site

TA: Olivia Wen

Office: B68 Uris Hall
Office hours: Thursdays 12:30-2:30PM

TA: Kacie Armstrong

Office: 245 Uris Hall
Office hours: Fridays 10:00AM-12:00PM

Required Text:

Sedivy, J. (2014). Language in Mind: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. Sinauer Associates.

Required Book Chapter: Christiansen, M.H. & Chater, N. (2001). Connectionist psycholinguistics in perspective. In M.H. Christiansen & N. Chater (Eds.), Connectionist psycholinguistics (pp. 19-75). Westport, CT: Ablex. (click here for an electronic copy).

Supplementary Texts: Additional readings can be downloaded here.

Course Description: This course provides an introduction to the psychology of language. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the scientific study of psycholinguistic phenomena. It covers a broad range of topics from psycholinguistics, including the evolution of language, the different components of language (phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics), processes involved in reading, computational modeling of language processes, the acquisition of language (both under normal and special circumstances), and the brain bases of language.

Learning Goals: To provide a comprehensive introduction to questions, theories, and research in psycholinguistics. At the end of this class, students are expected to be able to think critically about research and theories related to psycholinguistic phenomena.

Course Syllabus: Click here for a PDF version of the course syllabus.

Lecture Notes: Click here to get to the page with lecture slides for this course.

Copyrights: Lecture notes and study guides posted on this website are intellectual property belonging to Dr. Christiansen (unless otherwise noted). Students are not permitted to buy or sell any course materials without the express permission of the instructor. Such unauthorized behavior constitutes academic misconduct.

Study Guide: The study guide lists the most important issues that have been discussed in class. Each chapter is treated separately. Please note that the study guide should NOT be used as a substitute for reading the textbook, but as a guide to it.

Each study guide will be made available prior to the prelims.

Review Session: A review session will be scheduled shortly before each of the exams.

Grading/Prelims: The grade in this course will be based on a total of 140 points, comprising the 2 best scores from 3 non-cumulative prelims and a final 3-page essay. Each prelim consists of a combination of multiple-choice and short-answer questions and will be worth 55 points. Of the 3 prelims, only the two highest scores will count toward your final grade. Because you can drop the lowest prelim score, there will be no makeup exams. The prelims will be based on material covered in class and in the readings. Note that not all lecture material is covered in the readings, and vice versa. The prelims take place in class and there is no final exam. In the final essay, students are asked to answer one of three questions that cut across the course as a whole. The essay will be due during the Final Exam period and is worth 30 points. Turnitin may be used to counter plagiarism in the final essay.

Grades for the indivdual prelims and the final essay will be made available on Blackboard.

Final Examination Essay: The essay should be 3 pages long using 1.5 line spacing. There should be a 1-inch margin around the text, which should be no smaller than font size 10. The essay is due before 4:30PM Monday, May 15. It should be send by email to the TA Kacie Armstrong ( before the deadline.

Extra Credit: Up to 5 points can be earned through extra credit participation in approved research experiments conducted by Cornell faculty and students. Details of participation will be outlined in class and on the class web site. One point can be earned for each "hour" of participation (that is, at least 30 minutes but no more than an hour). Students should sign up on-line for experiments on the SONA system (NB: only some experiments offer credit for this course).

Click here for a fact sheet with information about how to set up a SONA account and how to sign up for extra credit studies.

Please make sure to note the experiment name and, if possible, the experimenter's name as well before you arrive for participation. You should also keep a log of dates, times, and the various experiments in which you have participated (in case any discrepancy arises later). Extra credits must be earned no later than May 15, 2016.

Academic Integrity: Each student in this courser is expected to abide by the Cornell University Code of Academic Integrity. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work. Failure to adhere to the Code of Academic Integrity will result in an F in the course.

Final Grade: : The final grade will be computed based on the sum of the two best prelim scores, the score for the final essay, and any extra credit points earned, and then calculated as a percentage of 140. Grades will be assigned based on the following table.








































< 84

< 60





Students with Disabilities: Please hand in your Student Disability Services (SDS) accommodation letter early in the semester so that there is adequate time to arrange your approved academic modifications. Meeting with Dr. Christiansen during office hours will help ensure confidentiality. If you need an immediate accommodation for equal access, please come up after class or send an email to Dr. Christiansen and/or SDS. If the need arises for additional accommodations during the semester, please contact SDS.


Week Dates Topics Readings Sites
Week 1 1/26 Introduction Chapter 1  
Week 2 1/31


Origin of Language

Cultural Evolution of Language

Chapter 2 Ape language
Week 3 2/7


Language Diversity

Genetic Language Disorders

Chapter 12

Chapter 3

Cross-linguistic sound-meaning biases

Language & Genetics

Week 4 2/14


Acquired Language Disorders

Brain Imaging and Language

Chapter 3 Brain & Language
Winter Break 2/21
Week 5 2/23 Computational Modeling of Language Christiansen & Chater (2001)
Week 6 2/28 PRELIM 1 (Tuesday) Chapters 1, 2, 3, 12, C&C
Week 6 3/2 Discovering Speech Sounds Chapter 4 Interactive Articulation
Week 7 3/7


Finding Words

Learning to Perceive Speech

Chapter 4* Praat Speech Analysis Software
Week 8 3/14


Learning Words

Learning to Combine Words

Chapter 5*

Chapter 6

Week 9 3/21


Learning the Structure of Sentences

Learning to Generalize

Chapter 6
Week 10 3/28 Lexical Access Chapter 7 Word Association Study
Week 10 3/30 PRELIM 2 (Thursday) Chapters 4, 5, 6, C&C
Spring Break 4/4 and 4/6
Week 11 4/11


Spoken Word Recognition

Visual Word Recognition I

Chapter 7*

McGurk effect demo

Week 12 4/18


Visual Word Recognition II

Understanding Sentences

Chapter 7*

Chapter 8

Week 13 4/25


Processing Syntactic Ambiguities

Language Expertise

Chapter 8* Garden path effect
Week 14 5/2


Language Production

Conversation and Writing

Chapter 9*

Chapter 11

Week 15 5/9 PRELIM 3 (Tuesday) Chapters 7, 8, 9, 11, C&C
Exam Week 5/15 (before 4:30PM) Final Essay

* In addition to relevant textbook chapters, students are required to read a chapter on "Connectionist psycholinguistics in perspective" by Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater (C&C). This chapter provides a comprehensive introduction to connectionist models of language, including the models covered in this course.

Note: Changes may be made to the syllabus, but will be announced in class.

Contact Information for Dr. Christiansen

Department of Psychology
228 Uris Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

Phone: (607) 255-3834 (dept)
Fax: (607) 255-8433
home page
Lab site

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Last modified March 23, 2017, by mhc.