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Computational Linguistics Program

Linguistics 503

Functions of Language

    Course Description


    The primary goal of the course is to acquaint students with some basic ideas about how language functions, by taking a close look at some examples in various linguistyic domains (syntax, phonology, morphology, discourse) in a variety of languages.


    The course uses two textbooks, Discovering Speech, Words, and Mind, by Dani Byrd and Toben H.Mintz, and Analyzing Grammar by Paul R. Kroeger, both available in the campus bookstore. There will be exercises for most of the chapters covered.

    The course begins with a brief survey of corpus methods, and some practice with corpus tools, then introduces some important concepts in morphology and constituent structure and applies them to data in various languages.

    The textbook for the phonology/phonetics segment of the courwse is Discovering Speech, Words, and Mind, by Dani Byrd and Toben H. Mintz. It provides a strong introduction to phonetics, emphasizing acoustics, with an excellent array of examples from diverse languages. We will begin with a phonetic survey, attending to the acoustics, and take a close look at examples illustrtaing the diversity of sound systems. We will also look at some of the basic issues in speech perception. How do we as hearers consistently classify sounds correctly, given their acoustic variability? Finally, we will look at some of the discourse functions of language, and see how some of the syntactic and phonological structures we have looked at interact with features of the discourse context.

    Pre-requisites Linguistics 501 or equivalent.
    Grading Grading will be based on exercises and take-home midterms and finals.
    • Midterm 25%
    • Final 25%
    • Exercises: 30%
    • Writing assignment: 10%
    • Class participation: 10%
    Many homeworks are graded loosely, especially at the beginning of the course, since they are regarded as learning experiences.
    The general structure of the course is not well-suited to late assignments. Assignment solutions will be discussed in detail on the day they are turned in, and thus students who turn assignments in late will be at an advantage. However, to allow for some flexibility, late assignments will receive partial credit. Here is the lateness policy:
    • Up to one week late: 50% credit for assignment
    • More than one week late: not accepted
    Group Work

    Group work is encouraged on the assignments. The midterm and final should be completed without any help.

    When turning in collaborative assignments, your collaborators should be identified on your paper.


    Attendance is not a formal part of your grade. But there will be inclass exercises that are graded and will count as part of your assignment grade.

    Also, be aware that class participation is part of your grade, and participation is always easier when you are there. Also, hints on how to solve problems on the assignments, the midterms, and the final are handed out liberally in class. These hints will not be posted on the web page.


    Tu 2:00-4:00, Th 11:00-12:00 BAM 321

    Weekly Syllabus

    Course Outline

    Mailing address:
    Department of Linguistics and Oriental Languages
    San Diego State University
    5500 Campanile Drive
    San Diego, CA 92182-7727
    Telephone: (619) 594-0252
    Office location: BAM, room 321