The

LSA

Courses

 

 

About the LSA:
The Institute is offering courses in many areas of theoretical, experimental, and historical linguistics, including acquisition, computational linguistics, dialectology, language change, morphology, neurolinguistics, phonetics, phonology, pragmatics, psycholinguistics, semantics, and syntax. There are classes with a specific language or language-family orientation, including African American English, Algonquian, American Sign Language, Anatolian, Austronesian, Chinese, Gbe, Indo-European, Irish, Japanese, and Salish.
* This year the courses have been offered at MIT, Boston. During the weekends, workshops have been organized at Harvard.

COURSES: (information adapted from LSA website) http://web.mit.edu/lsa2005/courses/descriptions.html

SEMANTICS/PRAGMATICS
1. Kratzer’s (advanced seminar) “Alternatives in Semantics”. The seminar brought together areas in semantics where alternative semantic values are likely to play a role: focus, disjunction, scalar phenomena, wh-expressions, and more generally indefinites, in particular polarity sensitive and free choice indefinites. Prerequisites: Graduate-level background in syntax and semantics.


2. Heim & Jacobson’s “Direct compositionality: binding and ellipsis”. This dialogue seminar examined some implications of a directly compositional and variable-free approach to phenomena of binding and ellipsis. Such an approach assumes that the syntax builds expressions while the semantics directly supplies a model-theoretic interpretation of each expression as it is built. It moreover assumes that semantics makes no use of assignment functions or of indices in the syntax. The seminar began by showing how these assumptions shape the analysis of phenomena such as binding, ellipsis, extraction, scope, and the interaction of these. The resulting proposals then will be critically compared with competing analyses of a more standard kind, which make crucial reference to a mediating level of Logical Form and a syntactic encoding of variables and binding relations. Prerequisites: some familiarity with model-theoretic semantics (such as an introductory course in formal semantics).


3. Fox’s “Scalar implicatures and the organization of grammar”. This class concentrated on the source of Scalar Implicatures, comparing the Gricean approach to implicatures, which attributes their presence to a reasoning process about the belief states of speakers, to an alternative language-internal account that was developed... Various arguments were presented in favor of the alternative, depending on various auxiliary hypotheses about the nature of degree representations, the syntax of comparative constructions, the interpretation of questions and definite descriptions, and the relevance of events or situations to natural language semantics. Much of the course was dedicated to a discussion of these hypotheses and the evidence in their support. Central to all of this – a detailed argument that implicature calculation makes use of a modular (i.e., informationally encapsulated) knowledge-base.


4. Stalnaker’s “Pragmatics”. This course focused on foundational issues about pragmatics: the ever changing line (or lines) between semantics and pragmatics, different conceptions of context, the Gricean distinction between saying and meaning, the notion of implicature, and its role in the explanation of linguistic phenomena.

SEMANTICS/SYNTAX
5. Portner & Zanuttini’s “Clause-typing: from syntax to discourse semantics”. This course examined the nature of clause type systems in natural language with a primary focus on imperatives as a case study. A clause type is a conventional association between a sentential form and an illocutionary force. Clause type systems exhibit universals (for example, all languages seem to have declaratives, interrogatives, and imperatives, while none has a type which conventionally makes a threat), and thus are a good candidate for helping us understand deep properties of grammar. The study of clause types is interesting for students whose main fields are syntax, semantics, or formal pragmatics. The course began with an overview of approaches to the topic. It then presented the theory which the instructors have developed over the past few years; this approach highlights the role of the syntax-semantics interface in understanding clause typing, in contrast to more purely syntactic or semantic approaches, and also involves a formal theory of the discourse context. The primary focus was on imperatives. Prerequisites: Familiarity with syntactic theory and formal semantic theory. Appropriate preparation would be advanced undergraduate or introductory graduate courses in these areas (two semesters of syntax, one of formal semantics). Feel free to email the instructors with questions as to whether your preparation is adequate.

SYNTAX:
6. Reinhart’s “The Theta-System”. The framework is the Theta System developed in Reinhart (2002) and Reinhart and Siloni (to appear). The Theta system (what has been labeled in Chomsky's Principles and Parameters framework 'Theta theory') is the system enabling the interface between the systems of concepts and the computational system -syntax (and, via the syntactic representations, with the semantic inference systems).

PHONETICS/PHONOLOGY
1. Kingston and Lahiri’s “Introduction to Phonetics”. The first three weeks of this course covers the fundamentals of speech production, acoustics, and perception. Its purpose is to lay the empirical and theoretical groundwork for the focus on specific phenomena in the second three weeks of the course. Considerable attention was paid along the way to the relationships between phonetics and phonology. Extensive use of PRAAT software in class demonstrations, exercises, and projects. The second half of the course focuses on theories of speech production and perception including psycholinguistic models.


2. Kenneth Stevens’ .Acoustic Phonetics and Distinctive Features. This is an advanced class on 1) Acoustics of vowel production; vowel systems; quantal relations for vowels; nasal vowels. 2) Acoustics of sonorant and obstruent consonant production 3) Laboratory on acoustics of vowels and consonants; spectrogram reading 4) Review of defining articulation and acoustics for distinctive features 5) Enhancing gestures in English; examples from other language; modifications in running speech; models of speech perception 6) Laboratory exercises; more spectrogram reading


3. Keith Johnson’s Acoustic Phonetics. This course was a hands-on introduction to acoustic phonetic analysis. The majority of the course was devoted to practical measurement problems. Praat, Wavesurfer and Tube (speech synthesizer) were introduced and used through out the course.


4. Guenther and Perkell’s Speech Articulation. This is an advanced course. Some backgrounds in physiology and acoustics were required. It described the anatomy and physiology of the vocal tract and the neural control of speech movements. Examples of anatomical and physiological constraints on sound patterns and speech movements were shown, along with observations of motor control strategies, the role of hearing and relations between production and perception. An historical overview of models of speech production was presented. Current computational models of speech production were also addressed, including treatment of the development of speaking skills and the neural substrate for speech production.


5. McCarthy’s Introduction to Optimality Theory. This course explained the properties and results of Optimality Theory in a way that is accessible to students who may have little or no prior background (or interest) in phonology. The focus will be on understanding the theory itself and how it works, rather than on the mechanics of analysis. Prerequisite: Familiarity with the goals of linguistic theory and the nature of linguistic analysis.

OTHERS
6. Mei and Peyraube’s Chinese Historical Syntax. This course focused on the mechanisms and the motivations of syntactic - and semantic - change in Chinese since the Pre-Archaic period (14th c. BC) to the Modern times (18th c. AD). A typological and parametric perspective was adopted, as well as the study of the processes of Reanalysis (Grammaticalization), Analogy and External Borrowing from a cognitive-functionalist approach. Three special topics were covered: resultative constructions, locative structures and passive forms.


7. Tzeng’s “From Gene to Language: Linguistic Diversity and Brain Plasticity. Cross-linguistic studies of brain functions permit us to separate universal mechanisms from language-specific content. By uncovering the range of variations that are possible under normal and abnormal conditions, cross-language studies also address the critical issues of behavioral and neural plasticity. Chinese languages, in both spoken and written forms, provide important and interesting points of reference for comparative language/brain relationships due to their unique linguistic properties. In this respect, this course intends to give a review of modern brain-imaging techniques such as fMRI, ERP, and MEG and their applications to Chinese neurolinguistic studies. Results from our laboratories as well as those of others should provide new and converging information about the functional neuroanatomy of speaking and reading Chinese.

About the LSA Fellowship:
The summer institute offers fellowships and it covers the tuition fee for the whole 6 weeks. The tuition fee was US$2000 this year. If you are thinking about going to the next LSA summer school to be held at Stanford University in 2007 summer, you are encouraged to apply for it. If you receive the fellowship, you will be required to be a full-time participant and have to take at least eight credits for 6 weeks.

Accommodation:
The accommodation offered at MIT and Harvard was very expensive, around US$1500 for a double room for six weeks. A lot of participants managed to rent a room off campus. If you are thinking about going to the 2007 LSA summer school and you would like to save some expense, start searching for rooms in advance, preferably in spring to get a room for summer.

Events and workshops:
There was a special lecture forum every Thursday night preceded by a wonderful buffet dinner with live music on site. It was the most relaxing time in a week for participants to sit around to eat and chat. The Thursday night lectures invited researchers in various linguistic subfields to give a talk on their research.
Practical workshops and academic conferences were arranged on the weekends during the 6 weeks period. Some LSA participants were presenters at the conferences and quite a number of profs attended the LSA due to the workshops/conferences.
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If anyone is interested in finding out more details about these courses, please let us know –
Angela - angichang@yahoo.ca, for phonetics/phonology/psycholinguistics
Keren - kerento@yahoo.com, for semantics/pragmatics/syntax