This course provides an introduction to language and the language sciences. The course consists of a series of lectures in which central topics are introduced, together with a classic paper on the topic that students are asked to read in preparation for the class. The course starts off with an overview of key phenomena in language, ranging from phonetics (speech sounds), phonology (the language-internal patterning of speech sounds), morphology (the internal structure of words), syntax (the patterning of words in sentences), to semantics (theories of meaning). The course then proceeds with a review of language variation and change, beginning with the social dimensions of language variation (sociolinguistics), followed by the geographical dimensions of language variation (dialectology and dialectometry), and concluded by an introduction to language change (historical linguistics) and language evolution. Further topics in this course are language typology, language acquisition, the relation between language and thought, and animal communication.
For each class, students are required to write a short (one-page) review. In addition, students are offered the choice between writing an extented essay on one of the topics discussed in the course, or to write a computational implementation of one of the computational models discussed in the course. At the end of this course, participants will have the necessary background knowledge to understand current literature on language processing in the cognitive sciences.
Basic concepts from probability theory and statistics are essential for current research in theoretical and computational linguistics. This course introduces the key concepts from the areas of set theory, algebra and logic, which belong to the basic repertoire of linguistic methods. The main goal of the course is to provide the students with sufficient competence in basic notations, terminology and concepts of discrete mathematics for their studies in theoretical and computational linguistics. Familiarity with concepts such as sets, functions and propositions, and the ability to work with simple proof techniques are a crucial prerequisite for subsequent courses.
The course is split into an Introduction to Probability Theory, and an Introduction to Logic. The introduction to probability theory is taught by Prof. Harald Baayen, 2 SWS from October through February. The introduction to logic is taught by Prof. Gerhard Jaeger, 2 SWS in the same time period. For both introductions, there are 2 SWS each of additional mandatory instruction in tutorial lab sessions.