Experimental Linguistics Module – Autumn 2011

Tuesday 2-4pm, Bancroft Building room 102.6

  • Module Description

    The goal of this module is to take students with no prior training in the methods or tools of experimental psychological science and provide them with the theoretical and practical training required to be able to critically engage with the Psycholinguistics literature and to undertake experimental linguistics research themselves. The module will include hands-on training in inferential statistics and hypothesis testing, experimental design, data collection (including training in ethical human subjects research protocols), and data analysis. The module will also engage students in considering strengths and limitations of various kinds of linguistics data, and how multiple sources of data and methods of data collection can be combined to enhance understanding. Students will develop their critical reading skills and gain practice in presenting primary source literature to their peers.

Week Two: Vocabulary and Methods

Posted by Linnaea on October 5, 2011

Yesterday we ran through quite a lot of basic vocabulary and terminology, and reviewed the basic foundations of experimental research. It probably won’t rate as the most exciting class of the semester, but the hope is that once we start reading real papers and discussing them, this background will be useful.

We started by situating experimental linguistics within the context of cognitive psychological research/approaches more generally. While we may ultimately be interested in abstract linguistic knowledge, or abstract rules and principles that govern language behaviour, using the tools of psych science requires us to be explicit about our models of how knowledge and use of language relate to and depend on our other cognitive capacities. We specifically talked about memory, and considered some of the different kinds of memory and how they might relate to aspects of the linguistic system. In coming weeks, we’ll focus on other cognitive capacities, such as auditory processing (starting next week) and reading ability and visual processing (after reading week). A big challenge for all of us interested in understanding the human linguistic capacity and human language behaviour, is to understand what aspects of our language knowledge and use are domain general and connected to our other capacities, and which aspects might be specific to the language capacity.

We also whizzed quickly through the basic logic of experimental scientific research – we defined some basic terms like dependent and independent variables and talked about some of the many, many different choices that have to be made when deciding on a research protocol to address a given question. The slides I presented are here. Note that many of the images and figures in these slides are borrowed from published papers, web sites, other people’s slides, etc. Apologies for not including careful citations for all sources.

Finally, we settled on a schedule for which team of students will take charge of which week for the rest of the term. Starting next week (October 11), rather than have a formal lecture on the day’s topic, a team of three students will organise the discussion. They’ll be counting on everyone in the room to have done the reading and have questions and comments to make. I’ll update the schedule later this week to include the names of the students in charge of each week.

Students preparing their presentations are STRONGLY encouraged to come meet with me well in advance of the week they are in charge of so I can share any materials I might have with them and we can make sure all the most important aspects of the topic get covered. Having student lead discussions is not a way for me to get out of doing any work for this module, quite the contrary, so please include me in your planning groups.

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