Courses

Below you find the course descriptions of Linguistics. The programme consists of compulsory courses, electives, an internship and a Master's thesis. Read more about the curriculum.

Compulsory

Digital Methods in Linguistics (compulsory)

This course provides an introduction to the use of computers and information technology for research in theoretical linguistics. We will cover some basic techniques and tools, and fundamental concepts and skills. The focus is on managing written data, especially text corpora. While we touch on some methodological issues, the course does not cover experimental design, working with recorded sound, or anything that would be considered "computational linguistics".

A substantial component involves writing scripts (simple programs) in the Python programming language. We will learn how to use scripts to manage and analyze texts (“corpus analysis”), carry out searches that go far beyond what you can do with a standard web form, count words and constructions, create randomized experimental stimuli, etc.

Students will become familiar with different types of digital language resources, and some of their uses in theoretical or experimental research.

Career orientation:
The skills learned in this course can be applied to employment outside academia, in the domain of natural language processing. The programming component has even broader utility.

Foundations of Sound Patterns (compulsory)

This course offers an introduction to major theoretical approaches and core methodologies in the areas of phonetics, phonology, and infant sound acquisition.

Language and its Structure: Syntax (compulsory)

This course provides an introduction into the theory of syntax; it aims at providing insights into syntactic thinking, analysis, theorizing, and methodology. The theoretical perspective is that of mainstream generative formal grammar, and in particular the Minimalist Program (Chomsky 1995 ff.).
The descriptive focus will be on major generalizations concerning core syntactic domains such as agreement, case, movement, and information structure. A prominent role will be attributed to features, and their position at the core of syntactic theory, and interfaces with sound and meaning representations. The architecture of grammar will also be prominently discussed.
The course will provide an overview of the general principles and methodologies used to analyze these domains, concentrating on unresolved issues and problematic aspects. Students will be called to participate actively in the course by providing insights from their own native language, as well as other languages.
While all issues will be discussed against a contemporary theoretical background, i.e. mainly within the Minimalist Program, the evolution of the various central concepts from Phrase Structure Rules, through Government and Binding will also be highlighted.
Tutorials will be organized for students who have never studied any syntax before.

MA Rotation (compulsory)

Aim of the MA rotation is to familiarize students with linguistics research carried out at UiL OTS (the Utrecht Institute of Linguistics). UiL OTS researchers will present their ongoing research, and offer internship options for students who are interesting in working in their project.

Career orientation
This course provide network opportunities for future academic research,especially the individual trajectory of internship and thesis research.

Term Paper and Research Skills Seminar II (compulsory)

The research seminar part II teaches students academic skills (abstract writing, presentation at conferences, publication strategies, grant acquisition) in connection to their individual research during the second year and their future career. Part II of the LOT school involves writing a paper. This paper can either be written under the supervision of the teacher of one of the LOT school classes the student participated in during the LOT summer school, or it can be written with the internship supervisor on a topic related to the LOT school. In both cases, the term paper constitutes the bridge between the knowledge acquired in the LOT school and the research questions that will be addressed in the internship and thesis.

Career orientation
Orientation on a future research oriented career in academia or outside of academia.

Foundations of Language acquisition (compulsory)

The foundations course provides the theoretical and empirical foundation for current developments in acquisition research driven by linguistic theory. It does so by focusing primarily on (morpho-)syntactic and semantic phenomena taken to t illustrate the relation and tension between the "logical problem of language acquisition", i.e., the observation that the knowledge children acquire goes far beyond the input to which they are exposed, and the "problem of actual language development", i.e., how and why children pass through certain developmental stages in their acquisition of their first language or – in the case of (simultaneous) bilingualism – languages. Questions to be addressed include: How is (monolingual and bilingual) first language acquisition guided by the principles of linguistic theory and general cognitive growth? And can the answers and explanations offered be naturally extended to adult and child second language acquisition, when acquisition starts with knowledge of one language (partly) in place? Topics will include: acquisition of argument structure, of referentential dependencies acquisition of scope relations; role and rise of functional categories; transfer; effect of age of onset; the role of input quantity and quality, plus other child-internal and child-external factors.

Foundations of Language, Brain & Cognition (compulsory)

Psycholinguistics studies the psychological and neurobiological factors that enable humans to comprehend, produce and use language. The topics include an introduction to the computational theory of mind, basic notions of neuroscience, the organization of the brain with a specific focus on the language related networks, as well as discussion of language production, comprehension and impairment. Students will also be introduced to the basics of experimental design in psycholinguistic experimentation and will participate (in groups) in designing a possible experiment, proceeding from formulating the research questions, hypothesis, method, analyses of the results and potential conclusions.

Foundations of meaning: Introduction to semantics and pragmatics (compulsory)

Semantics and pragmatics are the two linguistic subdisciplines that deal with meaning in language. Semantics studies meaning from the dual perspectives of reference and truth on the one hand and concepts on the other hand. Pragmatics studies meaning from the perspective of language use in communication and discourse. Many concepts and tools in these disciplines find their origins in philosophy and logic, and they have been successfully applied to a wide range of empirical phenomena in natural language that involve meaning.
The course focuses on two subjects:
1 Semantics: The conceptual and mathematical basis for doing semantics and its application in accounting for entailment patterns and meaning composition.
2 Pragmatics: The role of context, discourse, expressiveness, implicatures, presuppositions, and subjectivity in language use.

LOT winterschool (compulsory)

Students take two RM1 courses in the LOT Winterschool (preparation, active partipation for 5 days, take home exam). After successful completion, they receive two LOT certificates worth 2.5 ects per course.

Career orientation: Participation in the national LOT school supports networking of students: meeting RM/PhD students, and linguistic researchers from other LOT institutes.

LOT School & Research Skills Seminar I (compulsory)

The research seminar part I teaches students academic skills (participation in scientific activities, planning, research ethics, writing skills, principles of peer review and other academic skills they need for their individual research projects (term paper, internship and thesis) during the second year and their future career. Students will take three LOT courses (1 ects each) in the LOT summer school. Participation in the LOT school includes preparatory readings for the classes students sign up for. Participation in the LOT summer school can be replaced by participation in other LOT activities (e.g. Elitu, see lotschool.nl) or participation in the activities of other national research schools (see logosgw.nl).

Career orientation:
Orientation on a future research oriented career in academia or outside of academia.

Internship Linguistics (compulsory)

Together with the thesis, the research master internship constitutes the individual trajectory of the student. The exact activities/tasks, mode of working, schedule and expected outcomes may vary across individual internship projects, but they are all always agreed upon prior to the beginning of the internship and spelled-out in the written Trainee Agreement form. The Trainee Agreement form must be signed by the internal supervisors, the student and (if applicable) the external supervisor to be valid. Trainees can participate in ongoing research projects led by senior researchers that take place i) in-house, ii) at another research institution in the Netherlands, or iii) abroad. Students are responsible for finding their own supervisor, but are strongly encouraged to consult with the RMA tutor on their choice. In all cases the trainee must have an internal (UiL OTS) ) supervisor, who is responsible for filing the results in Osiris and sending the intern’s document to the Internship Office for archiving and safe keeping. All internships, even those predominantly oriented towards application and valorization must have a clearly defined component of fundamental/basic research in it. All internship projects must have two final deliverables: a) Research Paper – a paper presenting the research question(s), relevance, theoretical framework, methodology, result(s), outcome(s), and conclusion(s) of the research project and b) Reflection Report - a short report following the internship (2 A4 pages), reflecting upon the suitability and desirability of the research environment the internship took place in, be it for theoretical, experimental, or applied work. Both are submitted to the local (i.e. UiL OTS affiliated) internship supervisor, who bases the final grade on their combined content (in conjunction with a second, possibly external supervisor when applicable).

Career orientation:

Orientation on a future research oriented career in academia or outside of academia.

Research Thesis Linguistics (compulsory)

Together with the internship, the thesis constitutes the individual trajectory of the student. During the internship, the focus is on research questions defined by the project the student is participating in. For the thesis, emphasis is placed on original research driven by the student's own questions. The exact activities/tasks, mode of working, schedule and expected outcomes may vary across thesis research projects, but they are all always agreed upon at the beginning of the thesis project. Students are responsible for finding their own supervisor, and for bringing up their own creative ideas and research questions. In all cases student must have an internal supervisor affiliated with UiL OTS. A student may have an additional internal or external supervisor. An external supervisor is a senior researcher affiliated with an institution other than UiL OTS. The responsibility for the final grade and its entering in Osiris lies always on the internal supervisor. The output of the thesis research is a report that meets the standards of a scientific publication in the subdiscipline of linguistics at hand. The thesis should be structured around a central research question to which it provides an answer. The central research question should be clearly formulated at the beginning and its relevance to scholarly discussions within the discipline set out. The body of the text should show how the question was answered, why the approach chosen is adequate, and what the final outcomes are. The conclusion should contain an analysis of the findings in the light of the original question, and explain the broader implications of the research carried out. There are no strict guidelines as to length, but most theses are between 40 and 70 pages long (including notes, bibliography and appendices).Most students write the thesis in the second semester of the second year. A thesis seminar is run in that semester for group and individual support.

Thesis seminar. The thesis seminar aims at supporting students during the process of thesis research and writing, and at students offering each other help during this process. Students do not earn dcu for the thesis seminar, yet participation is obligatory. Thesis seminar topics include: planning the last semester, getting started on thesis research, making progress on thesis research, what does an MA thesis look like, MA thesis structure and writing, publishing in linguistics, how to prepare for a job interview, and any other topics that students would like to discuss. There will be seven triweekly meetings in blocks 3 and 4. The thesis seminar is supported by a Blackboard environment for communication, as for making available slides and other materials.

Career orientation:

Orientation on a future research oriented career in academia or outside of academia

Electives

Comparative Psycholinguistics

The course focuses on the comparative analyses of children, brain damaged patients and healthy individuals with respect to their linguistic capacities. In addition, we discuss the so-called special registers, that is to say expressions produced by healthy individuals which bear resemblance to the speech of individuals with aphasia or typically developing children. Students are also introduced to the main tenets of information theory and its application to language research as the theoretical basis for the proposed comparative approach.

Reasoning about meaning in linguistic communication

Meaning is a slippery, multifaceted concept. This is mainly because, when we communicate by linguistic means, meaning comes about not just via linguistic conventions but also via reasoning processes that are integral to communicative interaction. In this course we look at formal and computational theories of both linguistic meaning and the reasoning that underlies meaningful communication. A key ingredient of any such theory is the semantics/pragmatics distinction. This division between conventional linguistic sources of meaning on the one hand and meanings that are intentional in nature on the other is often a core assumption made in theories of linguistic communication. But it is also a source of intense debate, since many of the hot topics in the study of meaning today are topics that straddle the semantics/pragmatics divide in interesting and largely unexpected ways. Interestingly, the emerging debates rely heavily on empirical and analytical methods that are new to the field, ranging from experimental to computational methods. As a result, the study of meaning in linguistic communication is shifting from an analytical philosophical discipline to a field that overlaps with cognitive science and artificial intelligence.

A central question raised throughout the course is what analytical tools we need to conduct a science of meaning. The analytical philosophical tradition has it that it suffices to relate meaning to truth-conditions (the circumstances under which a sentence is true), but there are clear drawbacks to such a narrow view. In the course, we look at ways of going beyond the orthodoxy, for instance by asking what role probabilistic, or more in general, computational models could play in a theory of meaning.

The goal of this course is twofold: (i) to allow the students to understand some of the key empirical and theoretical questions that drive research in this area; (ii) to have the students acquire skills that allow them to conduct their own research in this area and propose novel models of meaning in linguistic communication.

Career orientation:
In the course you will work on further developing several general career skills, such as team work, communication, writing and project and time management. 

Syntax and Cognition: Grammar-Internal and Grammar-External Interfaces

Please notice: further information for cohort 2018-2019 will be provided by the programme coordinator. (-->Second Language Acquisition and Education)

The notion ‘interface’ is central in grammatical theory and in linguistic practice: works on the lexicon-syntax, syntax-semantics, syntax-phonology, and syntax-morphology interface have led to a deeper understanding of different linguistic phenomena and of the architecture of the linguistic component of the mind/brain. The main focus here is on the lexicon-syntax interface. Whereas the rapidity of language acquisition supports the shared assumption that there is a correlation between the meaning (lexical properties of predicates) and the syntactic structure in which they are realized, researchers differ with respect to the nature of the correlation. We will analyze and evaluate some of the representative approaches with respect to issues of alternations, linking, and the nature of the lexicon.

Career orientation:
Developing career skills in the domains of communication, writing, organisation, research and time-management.

Discourse, Cognition and Communication

Language users communicate through discourse. The constituting property of discourse is that it shows connectedness. This connectedness is a cognitive phenomenon: Language users make a coherent representation of the discourse under consideration. The discourse itself contains (more or less) overt signals that direct this interpretation process.

Discourse coherence manifests itself in referential coherence (anaphora, pronouns, discourse topics) and in coherence relations, such as Cause-Consequence and Contrast. These relations are conceptual and they can be made explicit by linguistic markers, so-called connectives (because, so, however) and lexical cue phrases (The result is, In conclusion).

First, we investigate the way in which various languages express coherence. Detailed corpus studies - of languages like English, Dutch, German, French, Russian and Chinese - provide interesting information on cross-linguistic similarities and differences. Second, the cognitive part studies the way language users process and represent these discourse structures during on-line processing and comprehension experiments. Third, we will investigate the way in which children learn to communicate on the discourse level. Finally, we discuss the implications for communication: how can we design texts that are optimally designed for effective communication?

Experimental Design & Data Analysis

This course aims to provide insight into psycholinguistic experimentation by carrying out a psycholinguistic experiment. The course consists of the following components:
1. Rationale of measuring in psycholinguistic research..
2. Research question and experimental design.
3. Preparation: creating stimulus materials, implementing the experiment.
4. Piloting/running the experiment.
5. Analysis of the results.
6. Reflection on the relationship between design and analysis.
7. Reporting the results.
The experimental work is carried out in groups (2-4 per group). Hands-on approach, with room for reflection on theoretical issues as we go along.

NB: The group work in this course will take about 10 hours a week, takes place during lab opening hours (Monday-Friday 9-17h), and is scheduled by the group members themselves (2-4 students per group). Make sure that you have enough room in your schedule to accommodate this (obligatory) group work. If your availability is too limited to meet with your group (for instance due to work, travel, other commitments), you cannot participate in this course.

Career orientation:

Allows students to determine whether experimental lab work suits them.

Language contact, variation and change: Comparing language systems

Linguistic variation, just like linguistic sameness (universality), is a core property of human language. The focus of this course is on the design of (morpho)syntactic diversity. What makes an investigation of the variant part of human language challenging are the strong indications that grammatical variation is non-arbitrary, bounded and predictable. Thus, there is a system (a design) behind syntactic variation. In this course, you will learn about this design of linguistic variation and change by addressing questions such as: (i) Which (morpho)syntactic properties display variation and change? (ii) Which parts of the grammar are open to variation and change? (iii) How do variant properties within one and the same language interact and correlate with each other? (iv) To what extent can variation and change be captured in terms of the Interface levels (with e.g. semantics, pragmatics, affect, phonology, sociolinguistics)? We will investigate the design of syntactic variation and change by comparing language systems at a micro-comparative scale (micro-differences among language systems that are extremely closely related) and at a macro-comparative scale (differences among language systems that are genetically or typologically less closely related/unrelated). We will do this by examining (morpho-)syntactic phenomena that have been studied in generative syntactic theory and in more 'conventional' historical/typological/dialectological studies, like agreement, case, movement and ellipsis.

Prosodic learning: linking sound to meaning

This course addresses theoretical approaches and research methods in prosody in relation to meaning and acquisition, as well as views on how to connect these areas.
• Regarding prosody, the emphasis will be on prosody at the level of the word (lexical tone, rhythmic grouping) and above the word level (intonation and its communicative functions).
• Regarding acquisition, the emphasis will be on first language acquisition: the development of prosody in relation to meaning at the word level and above in infants, children and adult learners.
Lectures will feature presentations by the instructors, discussion of readings, and presentations by students

Cognitive and computational aspects of word meaning

Natural language semantics relies on various empirical methods, involving experimental data, machine learning, corpus analysis and linguistic questionnaires. The course presents topics where developing formal and computational semantic models heavily depends on empirical work in lexical and conceptual semantics, common sense reasoning, and computational semantics. Students choose a research problem and study selected articles on that problem. Based on this study, students formulate an empirical hypothesis and test it in the end project.

Career orientation:
Experimental and computational research; language technology.

Language and Speech Pathology

This course looks at current research into the production and perception of speech. We will pay specific attention to the psycholinguistic and neurocognitive processes that underlie speech production and perception, and the interaction between the two. In addition, we will discuss the impact of (various types of) impairments on the production and perception of speech in adults and on speech (and language) development in children; the relation between underlying deficits, compensatory adaptations and how these express themselves in symptomatology. A recurring theme in the course is the interplay of clinical and theoretical issues. How can theory-driven research support clinical work, and how do clinical questions affect (fundamental) work on speech production and perception?

Entry requirements:
one of the courses: LIMV13003 Foundations of Sound Structure or TLRMV16105 Foundations of Sound Patterns and one of the courses LIMV13004 Foundations of psycholinguistics or TLRMV16100 Language, brain & Cognition

Second Language Acquisition and Education

Second Language Acquisition has become a full-fledged subfield of linguistics with its own myriad of approaches. This course invites students to explore and develop a deeper understanding of the field and the way it interfaces with language teaching. To do so, we read and discuss overview and in-depth papers, compare approaches and interact with researchers in SLA and/or education in the Netherlands. The students gradually work towards making their own contribution to the field of SLA and/or language teaching based on their own research interests. ​

Career orientation
The course features guest lectures by policy makers, researchers and/or teachers who bridge the gap between linguistics research and education.