Linguistics Course Descriptions

First year required courses

Note: Not all courses are offered every year.

Introduction to Linguistics (37-184)

This course introduces students to linguistics as a scientific study of human language. The course focus on major sub-fields of linguistics: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. Language is a complex rule-governed mental system. We discuss how language is different from animal communication. Students learn to identify principles shared by all human languages and parameters along which languages differ.

Phonetics and Phonology (37-286)

The course is divided into two main parts:
(1) Phonetics: introducing the physical aspects of speech and communication: the physiological mechanisms underlying the production and perception of speech sounds, as well as the physical properties of speech sounds.
(2) Phonology: an introduction to the phonological classification and behavior of speech sounds.

Syntax (37-287)

This course is an introduction to the generative approach to analyzing sentence structure. Elements of syntactic analysis are introduced: constituents and tree diagrams, arguments and modifiers, thematic roles and the theta criterion, movement and abstract syntactic representations. This course provides the tools for understanding the source of phenomena such as structural ambiguities and the formation of interrogative sentences.

Semantics (37-289)

An introduction to the theory and techniques of natural language semantics focusing on semantically interpreted grammars  and various notions of semantic and pragmatic inference such as entailment, presupposition and implicature.

Second year required courses

Research Methods in Linguistics (37-517)

The course introduces students to various methods, tools and techniques used in linguistic research. The course is designed to provide students with a basis for critical reading of scientific reports and basic skills for conducting their own research.

Psycholinguistics (37-522)

The course aims to introduce concepts, methods, assumptions, and findings in Psycholinguistic research, with focus on acquisition, processing, bilingualism, word recognition, reading, and language disorders. Basic features and components of empirical linguistic science will be introduced and methods of data collection procedures will be discussed.

BA-level seminars and electives

Reading Acquisition (37-4856)

The course introduces concepts, methods and theories of reading acquisition with focus on cross-linguistic differences. Students will be introduced to current views of reading acquisition and the empirical basis of these views. Then they will be asked to design tasks and collect data and present it in class. A paper based on the data will be submitted.

Noun Phrases (37-493)

This seminar surveys the major questions in the study of noun phrase structure over the last few decades, with a focus on the following topics: The internal structure of the noun phrase; functional categories and their roles; Universal principles and cross-linguistic variation in the syntax of the noun phrase; Complex noun phrases, especially genitive constructions; Grammatical features in the noun phrase (person, number, gender, definiteness etc); The syntactic role and grammatical properties of quantifiers, numerals and semi-lexical nominal heads; The syntax of pronouns and names. Lessons involve presentation of linguistic phenomena from a variety of languages; reading selected articles; critical discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of various analyses proposed in the literature, and online assignments and forum discussion of their significance and possible analyses.

Reading: Theory and Practice (37-503)

The course reviews historical developments in reading theory in an attempt to underscore the contrast between old and current views of reading. In particular, it aims to show that according to contemporary views, reading comprehension is grounded in word-level decoding processes and that basic cognitive-linguistic processes underlie word decoding. A cross-linguistic perspective on these processes will be adopted. The second part of the course will be devoted to a discussion of the educational implications of current reading theories and will discuss research into reading instruction.

Sociolinguistics (37-529)

In this course, we explore the basic concepts, methods, and theories within Sociolinguistics. Empirical analyses from speech and signed data conducted by key researchers in the field will be used to discuss basic concepts in the inter-relationship between language and society. By the end of the course, students will have an insight into the most important driving forces behind language variation and change.

Language Emergence & Evolution (37-541)

Only one species has a communicative system of the complexity of human language. By comparing full-blown human language with other systems, we can learn something about how human language arose in prehistory. In this course, we explore various different approaches to the examination of language evolution by considering the communication systems that unfold in: (1) pidgin communication, (2) child language, (3) language of trained apes, (4) young emerging sign languages, (5) iterative learning experiments, and (6) computational models in the simulation of language evolution. By the end of the course, students will have an understanding of language evolution and its relevance for the study of language.

Bilingualism (37-542)

The course aims to expose the students to the developmental, linguistic and societal aspects of bilingualism in children. The course will focus on the process of bilingual acquisition across language pairs, explaining various phenomena (such as the acquisition of the lexicon, word order, inflections and subordination) from psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. The course will focus on linguistic features of the home language and the societal language that are indicative of crosslinguistic interference including, but not limited to, code-switching. Special attention will be given to unique bilingual phenomena such as code-switching and crosslinguistic interference.

Language & Gender (37-543)

In this course, students learn how language in use mediates, and is mediated by, social constructions of gender and sexuality. An emphasis on the history of research in language and gender, which contains distinct phases and movements in the field, will culminate in a current description of the state of language and gender research today. Throughout this course we will address questions such as: How are gender differences manifested and perpetuated through language use? Is there such a thing as “women’s language”? How do gender differences influence communication between women and men? What can be done to promote gender equality in language use?

Bilingual and monolingual sentence processing (37-547)

In this course, we discuss available evidence from off- and on-line (eye-tracking and ERP) studies which provide insights into processing strategies in monolingual and bilingual children and adults. There are well-documented crosslinguistic differences in sentence processing strategies. Bilinguals do not behave like two monolinguals: processing strategies in L1 and L2 interact in bilingual speakers. The linguistic and non-linguistic mechanisms of this interaction are overviewed in this course.

Morphology (37-584)

The course introduces basic concepts in morphology and its interface with other components of the grammar: phonology, syntax and the lexicon. It provides basic theoretical tools for morphological analysis, based on data from various languages. Students will be able to examine linguistic data and provide morphological analysis in light of different theories.

Advanced Syntax (37-587)

BA-level elective which is a continuation of 287. This course introduces more advanced topics that form the foundations of modern syntactic theory: functional projections and recent versions of X-bar theory, clause structure and the syntactic representation of argument structure, movement operations and cross-linguistic variations in word order, case, agreement, and binding. Abstract notions such as empty categories (PRO, trace) and non-overt structural representations are developed, with the goal of arriving at a systematic theory of syntax that can not only describe the language but also explain why it has the observed properties.

Advanced semantics (37-589)

This course introduces tools for capturing compositional interpretation of natural language expressions, so their meaning is systematically derived from the meaning of their syntactic parts and the way they are composed. This is done by introducing the theory of types the lambda calculus for capturing in a precise and a formal way function-argument relations in the syntactic tree. We apply the system to analyze sentences with quantificational and numeral nouns phrases and gain interesting insights on puzzles and challenges regarding natural language interpretation.

Meaning and Use (37-591)

An introduction to concepts in semantics and pragmatics, including  quantification, modality, tense, event semantics, plurality, mass/count distinction, gradability, conversational implicatures and alternative semantics/focus. The course presupposes an introductory course in basic semantics, and uses minimal formal techniques beyond basic quantification theory.

MA-level required courses

Introduction to Syntax and Semantics (37-987)

This course is an introduction to generative (theoretical / Chomskian) Syntax and Semantics.

In the Syntax part we will discuss various tools,  relevant distinctions and structural analyses of simple sentences, use constituency tests and draw tree diagrams. These will later enable you to give a syntactic analysis of more complex sentences involving embedding and movement,  to account for puzzling data regarding syntactic ambiguities and ungrammaticality, and to get familiar with some of the abstract syntactic rules of English, and natural language in general (as formed using X-bar theory).

In the Semantics part we will start developing a theory called formal (or – model theoretic) Semantics. This theory gives interpretation to natural language expressions in a systematic way, by using formal tools of logic and philosophy of language, and it was proved to be extremely productive in accounting for a wide variety of semantic phenomena. Among other things we will learn about various semantic relations between sentences, how to represent and calculate the truth conditions and truth value of simple sentences relative to a model, and later on the truth conditions and value of sentences with sentential operators and quantifiers. We will also devote some time to Semantics-pragmatics interface, especially to conversational implicatures and to focus sensitivity.

Psycholinguistics and research methods (37-922)

This course provides the basis for experimental courses in linguistics. The main cognitive processes that underlie language processing are introduced, including dominant theories and experimental paradigms in lexical representation and access, sentence processing, language acquisition and beyond. Basic concepts in methodology and statistics are further introduced. The course is a required introduction for experimental and applied seminars.

Practice in Formal Linguistics 2 (37-5910)

This tutorial focuses on the basic principles of academic writing providing practical tips on a variety of topics (including but not limited to): writing a summary of an academic paper, referencing and citing other people's research, structuring an argument.  Part of the tutorial is devoted to the discussion of formal tools used in linguistic research.

Guided Reading (37-868)

In this course, students will be exposed to current research from within and outside of Bar Ilan and Israel. The course is based on weekly talks given by different invited speakers within the field of linguistics. Students will learn how to listen and follow an academic talk.

MA-level seminars

Scalarity-discourses Interfaces (37-852)

The semantics and pragmatics of  scalar particles (like only / even / still ) and of degree intensifiers (like completely / totally)  has been subject to a lot of research in the semantics literature. Almost all of the discussion, however, centered around cases where different variants of these particles (both within and across languages) operate inside the propositional level thus interact directly with the lexical semantics of the components in these propositions.

The purpose of this seminar is to look at some non-standard uses of such particles and modifiers, namely those where they have strong discourse effects. The main thesis we will develop and examine in the seminar is that these non-standard effects do not illustrate a genuine ambiguity of these particles, but that they result from the interaction between  (a) their standard semantics and (b) the fact that the arguments they operate over are discourse-based arguments and speech acts. We will do that by reading several papers trying to unify the propositional and discourse effects of such particles.

Quantitative Research in Syntax (37-892)

This seminar deals with work in theoretical syntax which is based not only on the methodology of using informal grammaticality judgments but also on quantitative research methods, and in particular experimental syntax and corpus studies. Through discussions of specific studies we also deal with deeper theoretical questions regarding the nature of abstract syntactic representations and the extent to which different syntactic models are suitable representations of the full range of observed facts.

Theoretical Approaches to Developmental Language Disorder (DLD) (37-924)

The course focuses on language acquisition by children diagnosed for Developmental Language Disorder (DLD), with special emphasis on monolingual verses bi-lingual development in this population. The course explores the acquisition of morpho- syntax, word order, long distance syntactic relations, and narrative abilities. The course aims to provide the students with hands-on experience in psycholinguistic research, discussing empirical findings from theoretical perspective.

Reading in a Second Language (37-928)

The course provides an overview of concepts, theories, methods, and research data in reading in a Second Language. Themes highlighted include linguistic distance and the role of L1, linguistic input and language proficiency, general cognitive processing skills, language-specific linguistic and orthographic factors, reading difficulties, and bilingualism.

Morpho-phonological Variation (37-998)

The seminar addresses the phenomenon of linguistic variation with focus on Morphology and Phonology. It addresses cases where the grammar produces two (or more) forms that are phonologically related and share the same (or very similar) meaning.

We will examine factors that are responsible for such variation, as well as factors that block it.  The conditions for the existence of linguistic variation will be addressed from phonological, morphological and semantic perspectives with focus on the implications on the architecture of the grammar.

Students will be able to analyze different cases of variation, while taking into account different types of criteria: phonological, morphological, semantic and syntactic. They will be able to account for factors that trigger variation, as well as factors that block it.

Autism: Language, Theory of Mind and Cognition (37-9000)

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is a heterogeneous neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties in social communication and repetitive behavior/ interest. In this seminar we explore linguistic characteristics of individuals with ASD. We discuss how atypical language and cognitive development contribute to linguistic theory.

Statistics for Linguists (37-9001)

This course will provide a theoretical background and practical experience in statistics for Linguists. The course will cover topics including: principles of measurement, measures of central tendency and variability, probability and distributions, hypothesis testing, t-tests, analysis of variance, and (briefly) non-parametric tests. We will get acquainted with basic commands of R and SPSS programs. By the end of the semester, students should have understanding of the main statistical procedures used in social sciences and linguistics and be able to independently analyze their data.

Semantic-Pragmatic Interfaces (37-9030)

In this  seminar we will examine various linguistic strategies – lexical, syntactic and intonational - which are used to encode ‘surprise’ or yield ‘counter-expectations’ effects (known in the literature as ‘miratives’). We will look at several such strategies in various languages, and work on tests which will help us distinguish between cases where such effects are really part of the semantics of the relevant construction ('true miratives') and those where they are derived in indirect (and cancellable) way from their semantics and some systematic pragmatic mechanisms, and constraints on context sensitivity ('parasitic miratives'). We will read and analyze in a critical way papers attempting to make the intuitive ‘surprise’ effects of various such constructions precise and formal, and work on planning and conducting small research projects examining additional / parallel constructions.

Linguistics of sign languages (37-9100)

This course introduces students to sign language linguistics with examples from young sign languages (i.e., Israeli Sign Language) as well as other established sign languages from around the world (i.e., British Sign Language). Students will learn about the universal properties of language in signed and spoken modalities and how these properties interact with the physical modality of language transmission and with the nature of the language community. By the end of the course, students will understand all of the essential aspects of sign linguistic structure: phonology, morphology, realizations of tense and aspect, word order rules, the system of classifiers, and prosody.

Multimodality in linguistic (37-9200)

Language can be viewed as a process of meaning-making rather than as an enclosed system. It is not limited to one modality, but to several. Central to multimodality studies is the study of the simultaneous deployment of resources in meaning-making including speech, gestures, eye gaze, mutual orientation of the bodies of the interlocutors, the material structure of the surround and objects or materials in the environment. In this seminar, students will learn how to analyse linguistic data based on different multimodal theories and perspectives.

Acquisition of Literacy in Bilingual Children (37-9401)

The course introduces basic concepts in bilingualism including types of bilingual children (simultaneous, sequential, L2, FL) and bilingual contexts (Societal Bilingualism, diglossia, dialectal contexts, heritage language). It discusses major theories and findings from research into literacy acquisition in bilingual children focusing on word reading mechanisms, underlying cognitive and linguistic underpinnings, the role of cross-linguistic differences and similarities, the role of input, cognitive aspects of bilingual processing, as well as sociolinguistic and environmental factors.

Advanced Seminar in Neurolinguistics (37-9459)

This seminar discusses current topics and debates in neurolinguistics, the field of research that utilizes theoretically defined linguistics concepts to uncover the neurobiological basis of language. We will read and discuss cutting edge papers in this field. A strong background in experimental methods and statistical methods is required.

Brain Imaging of Language Functions (37-9503)

This advanced course provides an overview of imaging methods and tools used to study the neurobiology of language. We will review theories and findings concerning language processing in the brain. We will focus specifically on lexical access, morphological processing, syntactic processing and reading. We will discuss the contribution of specific imaging methods (fMRI, dMRI, EEG, ECOG and MEG) in comparison to cognitive neuropsychology and psycholinguistic methods, for mapping language functions.

Morphological Interfaces (37-9864)

This seminar examines the interface of morphology with other components of the grammar: phonology, syntax and the lexicon. Such interfaces will be examined in different domains such as prosodic constraints, valence changing, the morpho-phonology of loan words etc. Students will acquire tools to evaluate various models and theories in morphology such as root-based vs. word-based approaches, lexical phonology and paradigm based theories.
Students will be able to analyze different cases of morphological phenomena, while taking into account different types of criteria: phonological, morphological, semantic and syntactic. They will be able construct an independent study relying on different types of methodology.

Heritage Language Grammars (37-9050)

The term “Heritage Language” (hereafter HL) – also termed “minority language,” “community language,” “home language,” “family language,” “mother tongue,”– refers to a language that is spoken at home but is not the Majority Language (hereafter ML) of the society. Divergences and innovations observed in HL grammars are systematic, but the exact mechanisms of HL formation are the subject of on-going ardent debate in formal theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, and neurolinguistics. In the current seminar, we review linguistic properties of HLs in child and adult bilinguals, and potential mechanisms triggering change in HL grammars.