Current 447 Courses

2016W – Term 1


Course #:  447G-001

Title:  Cross-linguistic semantics and pragmatics

Pre-req:  LING 327

Days/times:  T Th / 9:30 am – 11 am

Instructor:  Lisa Matthewson

Description:  Human languages differ in the meaning distinctions they grammatically mark. For example, English encodes tense and uniqueness, but many languages do not.

(1)       I am hungry ≠ I was hungry.

(2)       the person I love ≠ a person I love

St’át’imcets (a Salish language indigenous to British Columbia) encodes neither tense nor uniqueness. The sentence in (3) can report either present or past hunger, and (4) is vague with respect to whether the speaker loves one person or more.

(3)       Táytkan.                                              ‘I am/was hungry.’

(4)       ta ucwalmicwa ta wa7 xweysán         ‘the/a person who I love’

Conversely, sometimes St’át’imcets is more explicit. The single English sentence in (5) covers the meaning of three distinct St’át’imcets sentences, depending on the speaker’s source of evidence for the rain.

(5)       It is raining.

  1. Wa7 kwis.             (if the speaker personally witnessed the rain)
  2. Wa7 ku7 kwis.      (if the speaker was told about the rain)
  3. Wa7 k’a kwis.       (if the speaker inferred that it was raining)

In this course we investigate the ways in which languages vary in their semantics and their pragmatics, and also the ways in which all languages are the same. Students will have the opportunity to work in groups on their own research projects.

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COURSE #:  447H – 001

Title:  Python Programming for Linguistics

Pre-req:    LING 311

Days/Times:  Term 1 – T/Th – 11:00-12:30

Instructor:  Scott Mackie


This course is an introduction to the Python programming language. The focus is on using Python to solve linguistics problems, with a particular emphasis on phonology. By the end of the course, students should be able to write and debug simple programs on their own. A large amount of class time will be devoted to practical exercises in writing code.

Prerequisite LING311. No knowledge of programming languages is required.

A note about computer access:  Access to a computer is necessary for this course. A laptop, or other portable device capable of running Python, is highly recommended, in order to take advantage of the in-class programming time. However, quizzes are written and do not require a computer, and the assignments are expected to be completed outside of class time, so a student with only a desktop computer can still complete all of the course work.


Course #:  447I-002

Title:  Information Structure

Days/Times:  T Th / 2 pm – 3:30 pm

Instructor:  Michael Rochemont

Description:  This course will provide a basic introduction to Information Structure (IS). We will examine the central notions of IS, particularly the notions given/new, topic, and focus, and their potential role in maintaining discourse coherence and cohesion.   IS deals primarily with how the form of a linguistic expression (its syntax, prosody and morphology) reflects the temporary state of a discourse, and so is largely concerned with “information packaging” as opposed to strictly semantic content.  A familiar example from English illustrates the types of problems explored. Consider the following four distinct possible pronunciations of the sentence ‘John likes Mary’: JOHN likes Mary, John likes MARY, John LIKES Mary, and JOHN likes MARY. The differences among these variants are said to be differences in the expression of focus. What precisely is it about each of these pronunciations that makes it phonetically and phonologically distinct from the others?  Observe that each imposes distinct conditions on the discourse contexts in which it can be felicitously used. What are these conditions?  How are they best characterized?  How do other languages express these same variations in information packaging?  Some languages do not use prosody at all, but instead use morphological or syntactic means to give expression to focus variants. Many languages, including English, use a combination of prosodic, morphological and/or syntactic markers to designate a focus. We will explore the literature on these and related IS topics. Prerequisites: preferably, LING 300, 311, 313, or permission of instructor.


2016W – Term 2

Course #: 447J-001

Title:  Who is a native speaker?

Days/Times:  T Th / 11 am – 12:30 pm

Instructor:   Molly Babel


In this course we’ll explore definitions about what it means to be a native speaker of a language. Our readings will focus on the ways in which heritage speakers, monolinguals, and multilinguals process spoken language in an attempt to understand how language experiences and the acquisition at different developmental stages (infancy, childhood, adulthood) affects speech recognition processes.