Linguistics 170: Psycholinguistics (Winter 2013)

1 Course information

Lecture TimesTuTh 12:30pm-2:00pm
Lecture LocationCognitive Science Building 002
Section TimeMondays 2:30-3:20pm
Section LocationMcGill 2330
Class webpage

2 Instructor information

InstructorRoger Levy (
Instructor's officeAP&M Room 4220
Instructor's office hoursTuesdays 2-4pm
Teaching Assistant (TA)Emily Morgan, Alex Stiller-Shulman
TA office hoursThursdays 10am-12pm (Emily); Tuesdays 11:30am-12:30pm (Alex)
TA officeAP&M 2351 (Emily); AP&M 3331A (Alex)

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 lecture and discussion. There will also be an optional review section held at time & location TBA.

4.1 Classroom Etiquette

During lectures, interrupting (politely!) to ask questions is highly encouraged – please raise your hand and I 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 Readings

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.

Finally, we will read some original research articles and review articles for this class. These will be added into the syllabus gradually over the course of the quarter.


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)

WeekDayTopicReading MaterialsAssignments
Week 18 JanClass Introduction: what is psycholinguistics? Admin. Beginning of linguistics review.Harley Ch 1, Altmann Ch 1Beginning of Class Survey (Ted)
10 JanComplete linguistics review.Harley Ch 2, Altmann Ch 4
Week 215 JanWord recognition IHarley Ch 6 (pp. 167–192), Altmann Ch 6
17 JanWord recognition IIHarley Ch 6 (pp. 192–208)
Week 322 JanDiscussion of primary-literature paperMeunier & Longtin 2007
24 JanSpeech perception IHarley Ch 9 (pp. 257–267), Altmann Ch 3
Week 429 JanSpeech perception IIHarley Ch 9 (pp. 267–283), Altmann Ch 5Decide on target article for review paper 1
31 JanDiscussion of papers from primary literatureDahan, Magnuson, & Tanenhaus 2001
Week 55 FebReadingHarley Ch 7 & 8, Altmann Ch 11
7 FebComprehension IAltmann Ch 7, Harley Ch 10 (pp. 287–301)
Week 612 FebComprehension IIHarley Ch 10 (pp. 301–319), Altmann Ch 8First review paper due
14 FebComprehension IIIHarley Ch 12 (pp. 361–373) + article TBD
Week 719 FebComprehension IVHarley Ch 12 (pp. 373–392)
21 FebComprehension VAltmann Ch 9, Harley Ch 11 (pp. 321–340) + article TBD
Week 826 FebLanguage production and language meaning IHarley Ch 11 (pp. 340–360)
28 FebLanguage production and language meaning IIAltmann Ch 10, Harley Ch 13 (pp. 397–404) + article TBD
Week 95 MarLanguage production and language meaning IIIHarley Ch 13 (pp. 404–428)Decide on target article for review paper 2
7 MarLanguage production and language meaning IVHarley Ch 13 (pp. 428–450) + article TBD
Week 1012 MarNeural methods in the study of language comprehensionReview articles: Fedorenko & Kanwisher 2009, Kutas & Federmeier 2009
14 MarBilingualism and second language acquisitionHarley Ch 5, Altmann Ch 9 + article TBD
Finals19 MarSecond review paper due at 2:30pm

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 in contacting us about what articles you'll write your review papers about – please do use email to stay in touch with us on this, 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 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 four 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 journal entries throughout the course of the quarter; each journal entry must be posted by 12pm (noon) 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 word recognition, you must post your entry by noon on 15 Jan.

    The journal entries will be worth 3.5% each for a total of 35% 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. Two review papers (6-8 pages) to be written about original psycholinguistics articles of your choice. For each review paper, there will be a pool of original research articles made available from which you can select one that appeals to you, and you will write a review paper about that article. The first review paper will be due 7 Feb, the second 19 Mar. Each review paper will count for 27% of your grade.
  3. Constructing a set of stimuli for a psycholinguistics 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 on *14 Feb* and Phase 2 due *12 Mar* – and will be worth *6%* of your grade. This assignment is cancelled – you will automatically receive 6% credit.
  4. 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 TBD, and there is no guarantee that there will be experiment slots open for participation in the latest part of the quarter. You can get detailed information on SONA participation at

    b. Writing a research paper on some topic covered in the class (1000-1500 words). The due date for such a paper is March 13, 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 Feb 28before 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 19 March.

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: 2013-02-14 11:47:10 PST

Author: Roger Levy

Org version 7.8.06 with Emacs version 23

Validate XHTML 1.0