Linguistics 480/812, Spring Semester 2008


This is the webpage for Linguistics 480/812.  I will be adding to it as the semester goes on, so you should regularly come here for new information, including links to further readings.


Linguistics 480/812 is a piggyback course, which means that it is a mixture of Ling 467 (a fourth-year Linguistics course) and Ling 812 (a graduate course).  I have separate syllabi for the two versions of the course, but since they are so closely related, everyone might wish to read both.  Ling 480 syllabus.  Ling 812 syllabus. These are both pdf documents, so you need Acrobat Reader to view them.  (They will be downloaded onto your computer when you click on them, and then you can view them with your copy of Acrobat Reader).  Acrobat Reader is free and can be gotten from here.


There is a set of overheads that are relevant to generics.  It is a powerpoint presentation has been saved as three pdf documents.  We will go over most of this in class, and they derive from material in the Krifka et al "Genericity: An Introduction" article in our The Generic Book textbook (with some material from F.J. Pelletier & N. Asher "Generics and Defaults" in the Handbook of Logic and Linguistics [edited by J. van Benthem & A. ter Meulen] added on for the formal treatment).  Part 1 (short intro) of the three-part presentation; Part 2 (kind referring NPs); and Part 3 (characterizing sentences).  And here are a few powerpoint slides about a formal semantic treatment of the GEN operator.


My office hours are: 2-3pm on Tuesdays in WMX 5661, and by appointment at other times.  (Send me an email).


All students, both in 480 and 812, are supposed to write short (about 2 pages with 1.5-spacing, which is about 800 words, I think -- if you want to go further you can do so) summaries of an article that is relevant to the course.  Possible articles can be found in The Generic Book, but also by looking at a Linguistics database for articles that have been published on the topics of Generics or Mass Terms.  I think it would be best if you searched for published articles rather than for unpublished material that is on the Web.  You may choose these articles on your own, or you can find a couple of plausible candidates and see me to discuss which one(s) to pursue, or you can see me to just talk about possible topics and articles. 


A survey article on Mass Terms written by me and Len Schubert was published in The Handbook of Philosophical Logic (2nd edition 2003; edited by D. Gabbay & J. Woods).  The bibliographies in both The Generic Book and in this article are fairly complete (for their time frames), and you might find interesting works in them.


I have written up a guideline for constructing these sorts of short summaries.  This was originally written for graduate students and is aimed at providing them with relevant information for their future research, so it is a bit of overkill for the purposes of this course.  Nonetheless, you can use it as somewhat of a guide.   Try to be clear in your summary what the main topic of the paper is and why it is important, according to the author.  If there is space remaining, mention some of the alternative explanations of the phenomena that the author considered and rejected. 


I mentioned in class that I expect to have a lecture given by Prof. Greg Carlson of the University of Rochester sometime in late February.  This will probably be on some aspects of generics, perhaps about generics in the languages of the world.  I also expect to have a lecture given by Prof. David Barner of the University of Toronto sometime in early March.  This will be on some psycholinguistic aspects of mass terms.


The first summaries are due Feb. 8th, either by paper in class or else electronically before class to me by email.  I can accept pdf, Word, rtf, dvi, tex, ps, txt files.  But I cannot read WordPerfect documents (.wpd), so if you use this system, please save as pdf or rtf and send that to me. 


The first summaries should be about the topic of generics.  The email I sent to the class mentioned that I wanted people to all summarize different articles, so you should tell me which article you want to summarize in order for me to let you know that it is not already taken by someone else.  As I also said, you can email me with your general interests within Linguistics and I will try to find a paper about generics that touches on that topic.  I also mentioned that you should look at the `guideline` I mentioned above (see above for link) for reading articles and figuring out what is important about them.  Try to identify what the author thought was important about the article.


The second summaries should be about the topic of mass terms.  This is due in class on March 14th or electronically before class.  (Again, note the formats I can accept electronically).  I have found a bunch of articles that can be summarized, so that everyone chooses different articles.  Since we do not have many mass noun articles in The Generic Book (really, just the Krifka article on Chinese), I am putting a number of such articles on this web page.  Although these are all published (I think), many of them are slightly earlier versions that the authors sent me and maybe do not exactly correspond to the versions that were finally published.  And also, since they were sent to me as earlier versions, they sometimes do not have the data about publication, and sometimes don't even have author names.  If they don't and you want to summarize them, contact me for the details.  Here is a link to a web page that has the papers listed, and you can download them off of that page.  You can also find older papers in the bibliography of the Pelletier & Schubert paper that is also available from this website (and mentioned above).


Everyone in 480/812 needs to give a class presentation.  The 812 students have a somewhat different task than the 480 students and I will talk with them separately.  The following comments are intended for the 480 students.  Most of you will never have given an academic presentation, and probably are nervous about the prospect.  This class is intended to give you an introduction to this feature of academic life, and is intended to make it be a nice experience.  You will be giving a short lecture (about 20 minutes of lecture plus maybe another 5 minutes for questions/answers).  It will not be an aggressive situation, and instead, everyone will be wanting you to succeed at this new task and will be asking you helpful questions about the topic, so that you can show that you understood the article and can help them understand the article too. 

   The idea is that you will read some paper(s) and then give a lecture about them, so that others will know what the author said and will know whether you think the author is on the right track or not.  You can also try out a version of your final course paper, looking to get feedback that will help you on the version you turn in.  I have in mind that all the 480 students will do their presentations on the same day, towards the end of the semester.

   You will decide in advance on a paper to be presented, or a paper that is very relevant to your final paper (if you decide to try a version of your final paper).  Everyone will be discussing different papers.  You will tell the students in advance (at least a week) what paper you will be discussing, and give me an electronic copy of it so that I can send it to the class [if you cannot get an electronic version, then make up enough photocopies to pass out a week in advance].  Everyone is supposed to read at least 15 pages of each of the papers being passed out.  The person doing the presentation should identify which 15 pages are the most important, so that everyone can read those.  You might also remember that you are allowed to re-use one of the papers you did a short summary of, if you want.  (But of course, it would be even better if you chose an entirely new one.)

   Recall that you each are supposed to read the relevant pages of the articles that other students are presenting.  While you are in the audience of another student, pay attention and do your best to understand what the speaker is trying to communicate. When it comes to question time, ask a question of clarification, or about whether the speaker thinks that some point in the article is correct.  Perhaps you have thought of some problems with it.  Remember that a certain percentage of your grade is based on "class participation", and that this is in part judged by this interaction with the speakers.  At the end of a presentation, we will show our appreciation for the speaker by clapping.

   In Linguistics it is common for students, especially graduate students, to give talks on their research topics.  Furthermore, most university graduates, regardless of the field of their major, will at some time in their careers be required to give a presentation on a technical topic.  So, this is a good chance for you to learn a bit about doing this.  For many of you this will be the first time you have spoken about an academic topic in public, and therefore you probably are a bit nervous and unsure of how to handle it.  I have written a little essay on how to do this presentation, both in terms of the structure of your talk, the content of your talk, and the style of presentation of your talk (overheads, speaking, etc.).  This short description is here    

   Additionally, I have given links to two short papers written by Ian Parberry.  These are aimed at graduate students who are in the position of giving their first talks about their research, but still they contain very many good hints that anyone can use in preparing a talk.  Ian Parberry is a theoretical computer scientist, and this one is directed at graduate students in computer science.  He partnered with Bob Spillman, a biologist specializing in membranes, to rewrite it so that it is aimed at graduate students in membrane biology.  Linguistics is different from Computer Science and different from Biology, but if you look at them both you will see the sort of things that are common to any academic presentation.  Unfortunately they are a bit old (the Membrane one was written in 2000), and do not go into issues of using PowerPoint and other electronic display programs.


I have also prepared another short document that gives a few more hints about how much time to spend on particular aspects of your talk.


The final requirement for this course is a paper.  (10-15 pages for 480 students; 15-20 pages for 812 students).  The due date for this paper is April 15th, either in my Philosophy Department mailbox (fourth floor WMX) before the door is locked (4pm?), or before midnight electronically.  I have prepared a document about how you might go about writing a research paper for this class.  You should read it, and pay particular attention to the stuff about plagiarism at the end of the document.  (But I think the whole document will be of interest to you in learning how to write a research paper).