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The ability to communicate arbitrary ideas through thin air via sound waves is a complex and fascinating process. In this course we will study how language is represented, processed and acquired, with a concentration on how language is comprehended in real time. Language is structured at many levels: sounds are structured into morphemes; morphemes are structured into words; words are structured into sentences; and sentences are structured into discourses. In this course, we will concentrate mostly on information processing above the word level. We will also discuss sound and word-level information processing, but to a lesser extent. Topics to be covered include: syntax; sentence comprehension; semantic, pragmatic and discourse comprehension; intonation; neural networks and language processing; neural imaging and language processing; language production; language acquisition; speech; speech comprehension; visual word recognition; and the relationship between language and thought.


There is no textbook for this class. Readings for this course are listed in the readings section.


Excercises (3 Excercise Sets) 15%
Three Tests (Class 8, Class 15, Class 24 or Final Exam Week) 75%
Class Participation 10%

All three tests will be closed book. There will be review sessions scheduled outside of class hours before each test.

You are responsible for the material in the readings and in the lectures. There will be material in lectures that is not in the readings, and there will be material in the readings that is not in the lectures.

*** Important piece of advice #1 ***: Come to class! It will save you a lot of time in the long run. The work in this class can be quite difficult if you try to do it straight from the readings. It is much easier if you come to class. I think I explain what I want you to know far better in lecture than you can get from the readings.

*** Important piece of advice #2 ***: Ask questions in class! Don't wait until the review sessions before the tests to ask questions. The work will be much easier for you, and you will get much more out of it if you understand it as it is being taught. Don't worry about looking foolish in front of your classmates: Usually, if someone has a question, half of the class has the same question. And don't worry about interrupting me with your questions, even if you think they are "dumb" questions. The questions are probably not dumb! And I don't mind being interrupted to answer your questions: I like it. The class becomes more fun with the interaction.

Policy on Working in Groups for Exercises

Working in groups is encouraged, but all exercises must be written in your own words.