Readings and Other Materials

[O'Grady] = Buy at Amazon O'Grady, William, John Archibald, et al. Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. 6th ed. Bedford / St. Martin's, 2009. ISBN: 9780312618513.

[Baker] = Buy at Amazon Baker, Mark. The Atoms of Language: The Mind's Hidden Rules of Grammar. Basic Books, 2001. ISBN: 9780465005222.

In addition to the readings from the course's two textbooks, there were also additional readings and audio / video material that supplemented the course topics. All of these are featured in the table below.


What's it all about?

Branches of linguistics.

Language acquisition: what's innate, what's learned?

[O'Grady] Chapter 1, pp. 1–113.

The notion "lexicon"

No word or morpheme boundaries in the speech signal

Affixes: prefixes, suffixes

The rule "Merge"

How structure interacts with sound and with meaning

Syntactic category

Affixes: reduplication, infixes

Solving morphology problems


Derivational vs. inflectional morphology

[O'Grady] Chapter 4, pp. 115–46.

Saffran, Jenny R., Richard N. Aslin, et al. "Statistical Learning by 8-Month-Old Infants." Science 274, no. 5294 (1996): 1926–8.

A sample stimulus (AIFF) from the experiment described in the article above.

Phonetics (Sounds of Speech: Production and Perception)

International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Articulatory phonetics / distinctive features

Consonants: place, manner, aspiration, nasality


Articulatory phonetics (cont.)

Acoustic phonetics, categorical perception

The McGurk effect

Finish phonetics, start phonology

[O'Grady] Chapter 2, pp. 15–55.

Eimas, Peter D., Einar R. Siqueland, et al. "Speech Perception in Infants." Science 171, no. 3968 (1971): 303–6.

Watch both of the following video clips three ways: eyes open, volume up; eyes closed, volume up; eyes open, volume down.

hmcnally. "The McGurk effect." July 3, 2006. YouTube. Accessed February 14, 2013.

"The McGurk Effect," demonstrated by Prof. Patricia Kuhl.

Phonology (Sounds of Speech: Their Grammar)

Phonology vs. phonetics

Phonological rules

Underlying form

Complementary distribution

Phoneme and allophone

How to determine the phonemes of a language

Rule ordering

Syllable structure

[O'Grady] Chapter 3, pp. 59–106.
Writing Systems

Writing systems as a technology for representing speech

Types of systems: pictographic, syllabary, alphabet

Origins of the Roman alphabet

Phonemic vs. phonetic alphabetic writing systems

[O'Grady] Chapter 16, pp. 545–67.
Syntax (Sentence Structure)

Syntactic categories (noun, verb, etc.)

Phrase structure

Subcategorization in syntax

Chomsky's Locality Condition on subcategorization

The notion "head"

Complements and adjuncts

Head-initial vs. head-final languages


Movement as "internal merge"



V-to-C movement

Patterns of pronunciation (overt, covert, split)


The notion "parameter"

Movement and word-order variation

A language universal: the Final-over-Final Constraint (FOFC)

[O'Grady] Chapter 5, pp. 155–98.

All chapters in [Baker].

Acquisition of Syntax

Stages of acquisition

Learning vs. innateness vs. maturation

[O'Grady] Chapter 11, pp. 351–85.

Manual babbling by hearing child exposed to sign language.

"Berko's Wug Experiment." (MOV - 2.4MB) with a 3 year-old child.

"What Do You Think What She Said?" (MOV - 5.4MB) Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, University of Maryland.

"Building the Morphological Puzzle: a Claim for Continuity." (MOV - 15.7MB) Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Laboratory, Department of Linguistics, University of Maryland.

Semantics (Grammar of Meaning) / Semantics and Pragmatics

Pronouns and binding

Quantifier scope

Negative polarity items

[O'Grady] Chapter 6, pp. 203–40, but focus on 221–32.
Controversies, Myths and Crazy Rumors about Language

Selected from such issues as...

Does the language of the Pirahã disprove theories about language?

Why did Stalin write articles about linguistics?

What does teaching children to read have to do with right-wing vs. left-wing politics?

How many words for snow does Eskimo have? Should we care?

Colapinto, John. "The Interpreter." The New Yorker, April 2007, 118–37.

Everett, Daniel L. "This resource may not render correctly in a screen reader.Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã: Another Look at the Design Features of Human Language." (PDF) Current Anthropology 46, no. 4 (2005): 621–46.

A reply to the Everett article:

 Nevins, Andrew Ira, David Pesetsky, et al. "Pirahã Exceptionality: a Reassessment." June 2009.

Buy at Amazon Medvedev, Roy. "Stalin and Linguistics: An Episode from the History of Soviet Science." Chapter 10 in The Unknown Stalin: His Life, Death, and Legacy. Written by Roy Medvedev and Zhores Medvedev. Translated by Ellen Dahrendorf. The Overlook Press, 2005. ISBN: 9781585676446.

Buy at Amazon Stalin, Joseph V. Marxism and Problems of Linguistics. Wildside Press, 2008. ISBN: 9781434463760. [Preview with Google Books]

Buy at Amazon Pullum, Geoffrey K. Chapter 19 in The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax and Other Irreverent Essays on the Study of Language. University of Chicago Press, 1991. ISBN: 9780226685342. [Preview with Google Books]

Historical Change

Synchronic vs. diachronic linguistics

Internalist vs. externalist views of change

Pidgins, Creoles, Creolization

Language families

The Indo-European language family: language and culture

Linguistics and the Romantic movement

History of English

[O'Grady] Chapter 7, pp. 245–91.

Rosenfelder, Mark. "How Likely Are Chance Resemblances Between Languages?", 2002.

Dialects: Facts and Controversies

What is a dialect?

The politics of languages and dialects

Dialects of North American English

The "Ebonics" controversy

[O'Grady] Chapter 14, pp. 485–526.

Culturize. "The Wire–How To Play Chess." October 2, 2010. YouTube. Accessed February 19, 2013. (Listen for null copula and invariant be.)

SHNKArchives. "I Am Canadian: The Rant." September 13, 2012. YouTube. Accessed February 19, 2013.

Bill Cosby's address at the NAACP on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, May 17, 2004,

Pound Cake speech,

Julie Corbett. "Shark Attacked Newfoundland NTV News." January 24, 2011. YouTube. Accessed February 19, 2013. (Wait for the sound-bite interviews with the locals.)

Interview with William Labov, All Things Considered,, 2006.

Interview with John McCarthy, New England Public Radio, 2004.