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 8

Posted by Linnaea on November 23, 2011

I’m really not winning any awards for keeping on top of these updates, am I? Anyhow…

After a very badly needed reading week, we’ve switched gears a bit. The first half of the semester we focused on speech perception and looking at how our language specific, acquired, abstract knowledge of the phonological system of our language guides speech perception at the earliest stages, and even prevents us reliably hearing distinctions in that speech signal.

We’ve now traded speech and auditory information for written language, and we’ve jumped up a few levels from phonetics and phonology to morphology, syntax and semantics. In week 8, we read a whole series of papers arguing back and forth about standards of syntactic evidence, and how to reconcile the practice of theoretical linguists with the standard methods of testing scientific hypotheses that prevail in the other cognitive sciences. This is very much an ongoing debate that will no doubt inspire many more papers, but my optimistic view of the situation is that linguists and psycholinguists are getting better at communicating with each other. In the 10+ years since I’ve been involved in doing experimental linguistic research myself, I’ve definitely noticed a huge change. Linguists are becoming much more sophisticated about using the tools of experimental psych and neuroscience in their work, and it is increasingly common for linguists to include data from experiments and corpus work along side the traditional elicited judgements that have long formed the core of research on syntax and semantics. And psycholinguists and other cognitive scientists and neuroscientists with interests in language are becoming more open to collaborating with linguists in order to investigate more sophisticated, nuanced and theoretically motivated questions. Research on the processing and neurobiology of languages other than the typical English, Dutch and German is growing. I think we’re making real progress.

So on this optimistic note, the second half of the semester was launched and we dived into the world of sentence processing and reading studies.


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