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Regular version of the site
Bachelor 2019/2020

Experimental Studies of the Grammar

Category 'Best Course for Broadening Horizons and Diversity of Knowledge and Skills'
Area of studies: Fundamental and Applied Linguistics
Delivered by: School of Linguistics
When: 4 year, 3 module
Mode of studies: offline
Instructors: Natalia Slioussar
Language: English
ECTS credits: 3

Course Syllabus


The course is dedicated to experimental studies of syntax and morphology. It will cover the most important models of language production and processing and will show how experimental data can be used in theoretical linguistics to tease different theories apart. We will also consider several discussions that play an important role not only in linguistics, but also in other cognitive sciences, including the problem of modularity, innateness, the competence-performance distinction and the psycholinguistic adequacy of linguistic models. Several lectures will be dedicated to first and second language acquisition and clinical studies. The course will cover a variaty of behavioral and neuroimaging methods (including lexical decision task, cross-modal priming, self-paced reading, eye-tracking while reading, visual world paradigm, EEG and fMRI experiments). The students will conduct one experiment, paying attention to all crucial steps: selecting the design and creating materials, learning how to use experimental software, analyzing the results and interpreting them.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • to introduce students to most prominent models of language production and comprehension;
  • to show experimental methods used in the psycho- and neurolinguistic studies of syntax and morphology;
  • to introduce students to ideas how experimental materials can be used to evaluate different hypotheses formulated in theoretical linguistics.
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • to know most prominent models of language production and comprehension
  • to understand experimental methods used in the psycho- and neurolinguistics
  • to know experimental studies in several linguistic domains (long-distance dependencies, anaphora, agreement etc.)
  • students should be able to apply their knowledge when planning his or her own experimental studies and evaluating other studies.
  • to understand special features of experimental studies of the grammar in ontolinguistics and clinical linguistics
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Major theoretical questions in the experimental study of language.
    Different approaches to the competence vs. performance distinction, psycholinguistic adequacy of the grammar, the problems of modularity and its repercussions in psycholinguistics, the idea of innateness and its role in child language acquisition experiments.
  • An overview of behavioral and neurolinguistic experimental methods.
    Behavioral methods including questionnaires, lexical decision task, self-paced reading, cross-modal priming, eye-tracking while reading, visual world paradigm. Neurolinguistic methods including EEG / MEG, PET, fMRI. How do we choose the right method for an experiment?
  • Mental grammar in comprehension: major parsing models.
    Early models relying on heuristic strategies. Subsequent evidence suggesting that different types of information (syntactic, lexical, semantic, contextual) are taken into account during the earliest stages of paring. Contemporary approaches: interactionist and weakly modular.
  • Mental grammar in production: major generation models.
    Types of data production studies rely on (error analysis, elicited production etc.). Models with and without stages. Experimental evidence in favor of the former. Levelt’s (1999) model in more detail. Feedback loops in production.
  • Mental lexicon.
    An overview of existing approaches with an emphasis on morphologically complex words and forms. Which words and forms undergo morphological decomposition and which are stored as a whole? Can these two routes be combined? Does morphological regularity play any role in it?
  • Case studies: long-distance dependencies.
    Experimental evidence from various sources demonstrating the psycholinguistic reality of long-distance dependencies. Data that let us tease apart different approaches to long-distance dependences (the presence/absence of movement/internal merge and traces/copies). Different experimental profiles for different types of dependencies.
  • Case studies: agreement (number, gender, case).
    Agreement attraction errors as a window into the process of agreement during production and comprehension. Representational and retrieval-based approaches. Hierarchies of feature values and the problem of markedness. Subject-predicate agreement and semantics.
  • One experiment from the beginning to the end: running a self-paced reading study.
    Creating experimental stimuli (estimating their number, balancing factors, deciding on the nature and quantity of fillers etc.), programming an experiment, collecting data, analyzing data (excluding outliers, performing statistical analysis), interpreting the result.
  • Specialized methods to assess children's syntax and morphology
    Various pitfalls one must avoid conducting experiments with children. Truth-value judgment task, act-out task. Several domains where children’s performance was different from adults’ perforance, figuring out the reasons (different grammars vs. different processing abilities etc.).
  • Comprehension and production in Broca's aphasia: an interaction of theory and experiment.
    From the early ideas that Broca’s area is responsible for language production and Wernicke’s area for comprehension, attempts to give a more precise answer to this question relying on more or more sophisticated ideas about brain and about language. Various constructions that are difficult to produce and comprehend for Broca’s aphasiacs and how this depends on the task and context.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking lecturer’s assessment of the student’s work during seminars
  • non-blocking mean scores for homework assignments
  • non-blocking Oral discussion of the topics of the course.
  • non-blocking Written test
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    A short test designed to make sure that students remember important details from previous lectures and seminars.


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Gernsbacher, M. A., & Traxler, M. J. (2006). Handbook of Psycholinguistics (Vol. 2nd ed). Amsterdam: Academic Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=187294
  • Herbst, T., & Walter de Gruyter & Co. (2010). English Linguistics : A Coursebook for Students of English. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=390973
  • Traxler, M. J. (2012). Introduction to Psycholinguistics : Understanding Language Science. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=398618

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Ahlsén, E. (2006). Introduction to Neurolinguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=229803