Current 447 Courses

2018W – Term 1

Course #:  447G

Title:  Computational Skills for Linguistic Analysis

Days/times:  M/W, 12:30 – 2 pm

Instructor:  Julian Brooke

Description:   The goal of this course is to provide students with a set of practical skills for using computers to carry out linguistic analysis. We will begin by introducing the Python programming language with a particular focus on methods for manipulating strings (sequences of characters). Once we have covered the basics of programming, we will expand our understanding of these techniques in the context of concrete tasks for quantifying the use of language, for instance counting how often a particular linguistic phenomena appears in a large text corpus. Various external packages exist for Python which offer powerful linguistic and statistical tools to even the novice programmer; we will discuss some of the most popular (e.g. the Natural Language Toolkit or NLTK) and show how such tools can be accessed and applied to problems of interest.

This class assumes no particular computational background besides basic computer literacy. Biweekly programming assignments and a final research project will be the main form of assessment.


Course #:  447Q

Title:  Phonetics & Phonology of Sign Languages

Days/times:  T/Th, 2 – 3:30 pm

Instructor:  Kathleen Hall

Description:   In this course, we will explore how phonetics and phonology are studied in relation to sign languages. Sign languages of course involve a different modality than spoken languages — they are visual / gestural rather than auditory / vocal. While this means that we can’t literally study the “sounds” of such languages, we can still study the smallest non-meaningful units that form their structure, and that is the sense in which we can study their phonetics and phonology. For example, instead of talking about the place, manner, and voicing of consonant sounds, we might talk about the location, movement, and handshape involved in producing a sign. And as it turns out, many of the phonological processes common in spoken languages also show up in sign languages, such as assimilation, neutralization, reduction, deletion, or metathesis. Such observations give us insight into which characteristics of languages are universal and which are modality- or language-specific.

We will examine the ways in which linguists describe and analyze these components of sign languages, reading both general overview articles and more narrowly focused research papers. We will compare different theoretical approaches to particular issues and discuss their relative merits. Students will be involved in an original research project in relation to the topics covered in the course.

No prior knowledge of any sign language is assumed.


2018W – Term 2

Course #:  447S

Title:  Phonemes in Flux

Days/times:  M/W, 11 am – 12:30 pm

Instructor: Gudrun (Duna) Gylfadottir

Description: What does it mean for a speaker to have, or not have, a particular phonemic category? How is this related to a speaker’s ability to hear and produce a sound? In this course, we will examine cases where the answer to these questions is not straightforward. This includes changes involving the loss or addition of a phoneme or allophone, situations of language contact and bilingualism, and so-called “incomplete neutralization” phenomena. We will focus on the individual speaker, exploring the connection between production and perception in these contexts through a range of methodologies. Students will read relevant papers, discuss them in a student-led format, and conduct research for a final paper.


Course #:  447T

Title: Current issues in generative syntax

Pre-req:  tba

Days/times:  M/W, 11 am – 12:30 pm

Instructor:  Valentina Colasanti

Description: This course aims to develop an understanding of current issues in generative syntax, with a particular focus on linguistic variation (e.g. parameter theory, typology, microvariation, inter-speaker variation, intra-speaker variation, diachronic change, etc.). We will read selections from the primary-source literature, focusing on some of the most influential articles and chapters. The course is intended as means of introducing students to the primary literature in the field, and the lessons to be learned from it (e.g. how to use data compellingly, how to structure a syntactic argument, etc.). During the course, students will be expected to participate in seminar-type discussions, present literature reviews, conduct original research, participate in a research group, and present research findings.


Course #:  447H

Title:  American Sign Language  (NB. This course does NOT meet the “Research Requirement” for the BA or the “447 Requirement” in the Linguistics and Speech Sciences Majors.)

Pre-req:  tba

Days/times:  T/Th 11:00 am – 1:00 pm

Instructor:  Anita Harding

Description:  tba