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 Psycholinguistics  posted by  duggu   on 12/12/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Gibson, Edward, 9.59J Psycholinguistics, Spring 2005. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 08 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Diagram of Chinese word order for a relative clause sentence.

The Chinese word order for the relative clause sentence, "The official who the tycoon invited has bad intentions." (Graphic by Prof. Edward Gibson.)

Course Highlights

This course features an extensive reading list.

Course Description

This course covers central topics in language processing, including: the structure of language; sentence, discourse, and morphological processing; storage and access of words in the mental dictionary; speech processing; the relationship between the computational resources available in working memory and the language processing mechanism; and ambiguity resolution. The course also considers computational modeling, including connectionist models; the relationship between language and thought; and issues in language acquisition including critical period phenomena, the acquisition of speech, and the acquisition of words. Experimental methodologies such as self-paced reading, eye-tracking, cross-modal priming, and neural imaging methods are also examined.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.




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.


1 Introduction to the Course  
2 Syntax I  
3 Syntax II  
4 Syntax III  
5 Sentence Parsing

Sentence Comprehension I
6 Sentence Comprehension II  
7 Sentence Comprehension III Assignment 1 due
8 Test 1  
9 Sentence Processing IV  
10 Semantic and Pragmatic Processing  
11 Sentence and Discourse Comprehension  
12 Discourse Comprehension  
13 Neural Imaging and Language Processing  
14 Neural Networks and Language Processing Assignment 2 due
15 Test 2  
16 Intonation  
17 Speech  
18 Speech (cont.)  
19 Speech Perception and Production  
20 Words: Visual Word Recognition Assignment 3 due
21 Language Acquisition  
22 Language Production  
23 Review Session  
24 Test 3  
25 Language and Thought I

Guest Lecturer: Amy Perfors
26 Language and Thought II

Guest Lecturer: Lauren Schmidt
Assignment 4 due   Tell A Friend