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

Psychology of Language

Psych/CogSt 2150 - Ling 2215
Spring 2013
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: Ethan Jost

Office: B103 Uris Hall
Office hours: Wednesdays 10:30AM-12:30PM

TA: Julia Ying

Office: B61 Uris Hall
Office hours: Fridays 12:00-2:00PM

TA: James Golden

Office: 203 Uris Hall
Office hours: Mondays 1:00PM-3:00PM

Required Text:

Whitney, P. (1998). The Psychology of Language.Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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 will provide an introduction to the psychology of language. The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the scientific study of psycholinguistic phenomena. It will cover a broad range of topics from psycholinguistics, including the origin 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.

Study Guide: The study guide lists the most important issues that have been discussed in class. It also lists important references from the textbook. 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.

[For instructions how to print several slides on one piece of paper, go to the lecture note page.]

Review Session: An evening 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 150 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 May 10 (during the Final Exam period) and is worth 40 points.

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 and is due before 4PM Friday, May 10. It should be send by email to the TA James Golden before the deadline.

Extra Credit: Up to 6 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 SUSAN system (NB: only some experiments offer credit for this course).

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).

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 150. Grades will be assigned based on the following table.








































< 90

< 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 1/22



Origin of Language

Chapter 1  

Ape language Alex

Week 2 1/29


Cultural Evolution of Language

Phonology and Morphology

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Txt from Darwin

Interactive Articulation

Week 3 2/5


Syntax & Semantics

Language and Cognition

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously
Week 4 2/12


Language and Memory

Connectionist Models of Language

Chapter 3

Chapter 3*

Short-term memory test Word Association Study
Week 5 2/19 PRELIM 1 (Tuesday) Chapters 1, 2, 3*
Week 5 2/21 Speech Perception Chapter 5 Praat Speech Analysis Software
Week 6 2/26


Perceiving Spoken Words

Spoken Word Recognition

Chapter 5 McGurk effect demo
Week 7 3/5 and 3/7 Visual Word Recognition Chapter 6
Week 8 3/12


Sentence Processing

Syntactic Ambiguity

Chapter 7 Garden path effect
Spring Break 3/19 and 3/21
Week 9 3/26 Beyond Literal Sentence Meaning Chapter 7 language affects thought
Week 9 3/28 PRELIM 2 (Thursday) Chapters 5, 6, 7*
Week 10 4/2 and 4/4 Language Production Chapter 9


Week 11 4/9 and 4/11 Language Acquisition Chapter 10 Perspectives on Language Acquisition
Week 12 4/16


Models of Language Acquisition

Atypical Language Acquisition

Chapter 10*

Chapter 11

Week 13 4/23


Impaired Language Acqusition

Language and the Brain

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Language & Genetics

Brain & Language

Week 14 4/30 Language and the Brain Chapter 12
Week 14 5/2 PRELIM 3 (Thursday) Chapters 9, 10, 11, 12*
Exam Week 5/10 Final Essay

* In addition to the textbook chapters, students are required to read the chapter on "Connectionist psycholinguistics in perspective" by Morten Christiansen and Nick Chater. 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 April 24 2013 by mhc.