LING607: Topics in Psycholinguistics

Spring 2019 Syllabus

Topic: Theories of the acquisition process

Instructor: Kathryn Schuler
3401-C Walnut Street, Office 314

Time and place: Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30pm
Linguistics Department, Conference Room


Course description

In this seminar, we’ll read and discuss classic and contemporary theories of the language acquisition process. Topics include: prosodic, semantic, and syntactic bootstrapping theories, usage-based approaches, formal generative approaches, neural network models and more. Each week we’ll read a paper outlining a theoretical approach paired with either (1) an empirical investigation of the approach, (2) a paper expressing opposition to the approach, or (3) both. We’ll discuss the strengths and weakness of both the theories and the empirical studies that investigate them. We’ll also consider how one might design future experiments to test these theories.


All students - including those auditing - are expected to play an active role in class discussion. In each class, one student will be assigned to be the primary reader of each paper. The primary reader summarizes the reading, leads the discussion, and is primarily responsible for the assigned material. However, everyone is required to read the assigned material and contribute to the class discussion.

If you are taking the course for credit, your final project will be a research proposal. Your proposal will be reviewed in an in-class mock study section, and you’ll be required to write a formal response to the reviews you receive.



Notes: One name means one primary reader (Primary: Paper), two names mean a primary and a secondary reader (Primary/Secondary: Paper).

Date Topic Readings & Deadlines
Jan 22 Organizational meeting  
Jan 29 Logical problem and learnability Katie: Wexler 1980
Katie: Berwick 1986
Katie: Reali & Christiansen 2005
Feb 5 Prosodic bootstrapping Nikita: Gleitman & Wanner 1982
Sarah: Soderstrom et al 2003
Ava/Ryan: Hawthorne & Gerken 2014
Feb 12 Semantic bootstrapping Sarah: Wexler & Culicover 1980
Nikita: Berwick 1985
Feb 19 Syntactic bootstrapping Ryan: Gleitman et al 2005
Sarah/Ava: Pozzan et al 2015
Feb 26 Usage-based approaches Sarah: Tomasello 2000
Ava I./Ava C.: Fisher 2002
Mar 5 No class, Spring break None
Mar 12 Parameter setting Nikita: Radford 1995
Ava C./Ryan: Poeppel & Wexler 1993
Ava I.: Chien & Wexler 1990

Specific Aims due on Friday
Mar 19 OT Ava C./Sarah: Prince & Smolensky 1997
Ryan/Ava I.: Legendre 2006
Mar 26 TBD Ryan: Lidz 2007

Friday is the last day to submit proposal draft for feedback (optional)
Apr 2 Neural network models Ava C./Sarah:Rumelhart & McClelland 1988
Ryan/Ava I.: Pinker & Prince 1988
Apr 9 Distributional learning Ava C./Sarah: Maratsos and Chalkley 1980
Nikita/Ryan:Aslin & Newport 2014
Apr 16 Bayesian approaches Ava I./Nikita: Perfors et al 2011
Ryan/Ava C.: Yang 2017

Research Proposals due on Friday by midnight
Apr 23 No class Written critiques due on Friday by midnight
Apr 30 Mock study section Read proposals
May 7 No class, final exam week Response to reviewers’ critiques due by midnight


Discussion question instructions

Research proposal instructions