24.906J | Fall 2012 | Undergraduate

Linguistic Studies of Bilingualism


Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


24.900 Introduction to Linguistics

Course Description

One mind: two languages. The basic focus of this class will be on the linguistic and psycholinguistic underpinnings of the bilingual brain. The human capacity for language is unique and infinite; the multilingual brain/mind is nature’s standard.

We will begin the semester with discussions about language and linguistics; we will then continue to understand what it means to “acquire” a new language. How did we learn our first language(s)? Were we taught English? Japanese? Chinese? Spanish? If so, how did we do it so quickly? Is the learning of new subsequent language different from the learning of a first language? Is there a critical period for language learning?

In order to answer these questions, we will consider different models of bilingualism. We will also consider topics such as code-switching and how it is possible to have grammaticality judgments about code-switches. What are the effects of bilingualism on other domains of human cognition? What do imaging studies of the human brain tell us?

During the semester there will be opportunities to observe and conduct original research. We will consider issues concerning bilingualism for bilingual education, language planning and policy among many other topics.

Course Requirements

Weekly Readings

The textbook for this course is:

Wei, Li, ed. The Bilingualism Reader. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2007. ISBN: 9780415355551.

Additional readings can be found in the Readings section.

There will be weekly assigned readings. Students must do all the assigned readings before class. This class will be run as a seminar in which everyone participates and contributes his/her ideas, conjectures, hypotheses and/or observations. This will not be a standard lecture class in which the instructor lectures to the class and the class takes notes.

Weekly Assignments

There will be short written assignments spread out throughout the semester. These assignments will ask you to consider what you have read for the class and to react to (rather than summarize) what you have read.

Late work is unacceptable since your assignments are designed to feed directly into discussions and other class activities.


This is a CI-H class. What does this mean? One thing it means is that we take your ability to write very seriously. You will have lots of opportunities to write in this class. Each assignment will involve writing. Your final project will also provide ample opportunity for extended prose as well as practice in editing and revision.

Each of your assignments will be commented on both in terms of what you have written as well as how you have written it. The professor will work with you throughout the semester to help you develop good writing practices. Lots of time and attention will be devoted to this aspect of the class. Please take advantage of all of these opportunities.

Lead a Seminar Discussion

Each student must lead a class discussion at least once during the semester. The topic you choose for this discussion should be related to your final project.

Final Project

This will consist of a 5–7 page study/report that you will develop over the course of the semester. The project will be divided up such that you will first submit a proposal; we will then discuss the proposal together. After this, you will then revise and resubmit this proposal for approval for the project.


All students are expected to attend all class meetings. Unexcused absences, late assignments and lack of preparation for class will significantly affect your final grade.


Class participation 33 and 1/3
Homework assignments 33 and 1/3
Final project 33 and 1/3

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments