Grammatical Illusions:
Encoding and Navigating Linguistic Structures in Real Time

Instructor(s): Colin Phillips

This course uses evidence on the real-time effects of diverse grammatical constraints to understand how linguistic representations are encoded and navigated mentally. Some grammatical constraints, including some that are somewhat complex and obscure, have immediate impacts on language comprehension. Meanwhile other constraints, including some that are quite straightforward are highly susceptible to errors in on-line comprehension and production, leading to 'grammatical illusions'. This yields an overall profile of 'selective fallibility', unexpected under most current models of grammar and sentence processing. Just as visual illusions (and non-illusions) are extremely valuable for understanding the visual system, so grammatical illusions can help us to understand language. The course will draw on findings from linguistics, psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and from the psychology of vision and memory. Linguistic phenomena to be discussed include unbounded dependencies, anaphora, case and agreement, thematic role binding, negative polarity, comparatives, etc. Evidence will be drawn from diverse languages.

This course is aimed at an intermediate and advanced audience. The course draws on ideas from syntactic and semantic theory, psycho- and neurolinguistics, and visual psychophysics. Students should have some background in syntax/semantics. Background in psycholinguistics is not required, but newcomers may encounter a steep initial learning curve. No background in neurolinguistics, memory, or psychophysics will be presumed.

Course ID:

Mon & Thu 3:30-5:15

Classroom: MUEN E 0046

Areas of Linguistics:
Language Development and

Syntax and Morphology