LING 541 A: Language Processing and Development 1

Autumn 2023
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm / MGH 251
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
LING 441 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

LING 441/541

Language Processing and Development 1


Instructor: Naja Ferjan Ramírez

Office: GUG415B

Office hours: Mondays 10:30-11:20, by appointment


Classroom: MGH 251

Meeting Time: MW 12:30-2:20

Course Website:


Course description:

This course explores current research and theory on language processing and development in children and adults, with a focus on sound- and word-level representations. We will take an interdisciplinary approach, and will study language from a variety of perspectives relating linguistics to cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, and information science.


The big picture questions that we will study are: What is language, and where does it come from? How do we understand and produce sounds and words in real time? How do we develop word knowledge? Specific topics include origins of human language, the brain processing of sounds and words in adults and children (monolingual and bilingual), speech perception, word recognition and processing, acquisition of phonology and word meanings, sign language acquisition and the neurobiology of sign language as well as a variety of methodologies that are used to study these processes. Knowledge of introductory-level linguistics is assumed.


Ling 441 is the undergraduate section of the course, and Ling 541 is the graduate section. The differences between the two sections are noted throughout this syllabus.

Learning Objectives:

- Understand and assess current and past theories and research on language processing and development, through an interdisciplinary lens.

- Understand, evaluate, and describe the methodologies commonly used in research on language processing and development.

-  Critically evaluate original research papers, review papers, and theoretical papers in language processing and development.

- Participate in and lead academic presentations and discussions.


Course Web Page, Class Structure:

We will use Canvas as the course webpage. On the homepage, you will find a module for each week of class. In each module, you will find the materials that you’ll need for each week. All due dates and deadlines are noted in this syllabus (see table at the end). The course will be conducted fully in-person, with a couple of minor exceptions (noted in the table at the bottom of the syllabus).


Please note that this class has a lab component. There are a total of 6 lab assignments, which will be completed in small groups in class. The lab write-up is to be completed at home, by each student individually, although it may sometimes be possible to complete it in class. If you happen to be absent on a lab day, you will be able to complete the lab assignments on your own at home. Please note that the content of the lab assignments will be included on the exams.



Textbook: Sedivy, J. (2018). Language in Mind: An Introduction to Psycholinguistics. Second Edition. (Please note that you should not use the first edition of the book).  I refer to this text as “LM.”


Journal articles (original research papers, review papers, or theoretical papers) will also be covered. For details, see the weekly schedule and the list of all research papers at the end of this document. I will post the PDFs on Canvas in each week’s module. Author names and years of publication are listed at the end of this document.


Student Responsibilities and Expectations:

You are responsible to complete all assigned readings before class. Doing so will help you to better understand and follow the discussion, participate, ask more relevant, in-depth questions and complete the assignments more successfully.



Assessment for LING441:

  1. Homeworks (20%)
  2. Discussion Guides (20%)
  3. Midterm Exam (20%)
  4. Final Exam (20%)
  5. Lab Reports (20%)


Assessment for LING541:

  1. Homeworks (15%)
  2. Discussion Guides (15%)
  3. Midterm Exam (20%)
  4. Final Exam (20%)
  5. Lab Reports (15%)
  6. In Class Paper Presentations (15%)




Homeworks: Throughout the quarter, you will complete a series of untimed homework assignments and submit them on Canvas (due dates are in the schedule). The homework assignments will test your knowledge of the readings and lecture material, and the format will be multiple choice and short-answer questions.


Late assignments will be accepted for 24 hours after they are due. If you submit your homework within this 24-hour window, you can receive up to 80% credit for it (example: if the total number of available points is 10 and you answer all questions correctly, your final grade can be no higher than 8/10). After the 24-hour window has passed, no late assignments will be accepted.


Discussion Guides: For most assigned research papers, students will prepare and submit a Discussion Guide (henceforth, DG). A DG template can be found on Canvas, under the Syllabus and Templates module. Please look at the structure of the template to see exactly what I am looking for, and use the template for all your DG submissions. There are a total of 16 assigned research papers. Of these, DGs have to be completed for 12 (see list at the bottom of this syllabus). The other 4 papers can just be read, and they will be discussed in class. You will receive a point for submitting each DG regardless of whether your answers are correct, as long as you follow the guidelines on the template and fill in all the content (i.e. address the question that is asked and write down the correct number of sentences for each question). The DGs are always due BEFORE they are discussed in class. This is because learning to read research papers independently is one of the main learning objectives in this course. As a result, NO late DGs will be accepted, no exceptions. Please make sure you keep a copy of each DG for yourself too – you will want to use the DGs as you prepare for the exams. Note that all research papers covered by the DGs will be discussed in class, so if your answers were wrong, you should be able to self-correct those during class.


There are two DG templates: one for original research papers, and one for the theoretical / summary / review papers. It is your responsibility to figure out which DG template to use for each paper. If you choose the incorrect one (i.e., the review template for an original research paper or vice versa), you will receive a 0. Note that there is a list of all papers at the end of this syllabus. Ling 541 students: Note that you ARE supposed to submit the DG for the paper that you are scheduled to present.



Midterm Exam and Final Exam: There will be two exams, both will be conducted in-person (as in, on paper). The first is a midterm exam and will cover the topics of the first half of the class. The second and final exam is cumulative, but with a focus on the material covered since the midterm. The exams will cover information from the lectures, research paper presentations, and the readings (textbook and research papers). The focus of the exams will be on understanding the content of the readings and lectures, research methods, experimental procedures, and data interpretation.

There will be NO opportunities to retake, postpone, or take an exam early (including the final exam) so please take note of the exam dates and schedule your activities accordingly. Exceptions are sometimes made for (1) University sanctioned events (verification required) or (2) extraordinary circumstances (verification required). In such cases, make-up exams are only offered prior to the date of the scheduled exam. If you know you are going to miss an exam for one of these two reasons, please notify me as soon as possible.


Lab Reports: This class has a lab component. All lab assignments are posted on Canvas, and will be completed in small groups, in class. A lab report should be written and submitted for each lab assignment. In most cases, you should be able to complete the lab report, at least partly, in class. Some labs are longer than others, so whatever you do not complete in class will have to be completed at home. If you happen to miss a class with a lab, you will have to complete it at home by yourself, and submit the report by the deadline. Please note that the material covered in the Labs will be included on exams.


Late lab assignments will be accepted for 24 hours after they are due. If you submit your lab report within this 24-hour window, you can receive up to 80% credit for it (example: if the total number of available points is 10 and you answer all questions correctly, your final grade can be no higher than 8/10). After the 24-hour window has passed, no late assignments will be accepted. You will be allowed to drop your lowest lab grade.


Paper Presentations: (541 students only) Each of the 541 students has been assigned one research paper to present in class. Ling 441 students will not be making presentations, but they should attend all presentations and submit a DG for each presented paper, as the content of presentations will be covered on the exams. The selected papers are representative publications on the topics covered in class. Students will be assessed based on the quality of their presentation (grading rubric below). Each presentation will be 25 minutes long (+ 10 mins for questions / discussion – see below), and should cover all sections of the paper (introduction, methods, results, discussion and anything else that is included). For review papers, the presentation should cover all sections of the paper as well. If slides or any other materials are used (such as handouts), they must be emailed to Naja by 8:00 AM PST on the day after the presentation. The slides will be posted on the Canvas site, within the weekly modules.


To see what I am looking for in your presentations, please consider the grading rubric below.





Is the presenter well prepared and show in-depth understanding of material?


3 points

More than half of the material is well presented and understood by presenter in depth.

1-2 points

Less than half of the material is well presented and understood by presenter in depth.

0 points


All important parts of paper covered in sufficient detail


3 points

Most parts of paper covered in sufficient detail

1-2 points

Major parts of paper not covered

0 points


Is the presentation discussion based? Does the presenter invite others to participate? 


3 points

Somewhat discussion-based; some attempts to encourage audience participation.

1-2 points

Mostly not discussion based; few attempts to encourage audience participation.

0 points


The presentation is well organized, easy to follow.


2 points

Organization OK, with some difficult spots.

1 points

Major issues with presentation


0 points


Presenter relates subject matter to content from previous weeks, other related topics, and/or real-life issues


2 points

Some connections made with content from previous weeks, other related topics, real life issues

1 point

No connections made with content from previous weeks, other related topics, real life issues

0 points


Time management: all content covered in sufficient detail in 25 mins 


2 points

Minor timing issues (a bit too long or too short)

1 point

Major timing issues (much too long, much too short)


0 points


Question period: Presenter able to answer questions in a satisfying way


2 points

Most questions answered well.

1 point

Most questions not answered well.

0 points


Slides and any other materials sent to Naja by 8 am the day after presentation.


1 point

Slides and other materials sent up to 24 hrs late.

0.5 points

Slides and other materials sent more than 24 hrs late or not at all.

0 points










The following UW grading scale will be used (

  Percent = Grade

    ≥ 95%   =    4.0           88  =    3.3          81  =    2.6           74  =    1.9              67  =    1.2

94     =    3.9           87  =    3.2          80  =    2.5           73  =    1.8              66  =    1.1

93     =    3.8           86  =    3.1          79  =    2.4           72  =    1.7              65  =    1.0

92     =    3.7           85  =    3.0          78  =    2.3           71  =    1.6              64  =    0.9 

91     =    3.6           84  =    2.9           77  =    2.2           70  =    1.5              63  =    0.8          

90     =    3.5           83  =    2.8           76  =    2.1           69  =    1.4          60-62   =    0.7

89     =    3.4           82  =    2.7          75  =    2.0           68  =    1.3             < 60   =    0.0



Powerpoint slides & lecture recordings:

Zoom Recordings: All of the lectures for the course will be recorded using Zoom and made available online for subsequent viewing on the course website (in the within the weekly modules). I cannot be held responsible for equipment failure that interferes with the recording process. Because such failures do occur, I highly discourage relying on the screencasts as a substitute for coming to class.

I will post all Powerpoint slides within the weekly modules on Canvas typically by the morning after class (i.e. the Monday lecture slides will be posted on Tuesday morning) within the weekly modules. If I haven’t posted the day’s lecture slides by the following day at noon, please feel free to send me a (friendly) reminder to post them.

For the pre-recorded lectures (on 11/1 and 11/22) I will post both the lecture recording and the Powerpoint slides by class time (i.e. 12:30 PST).

Grading challenges, questions, complaints: If you have a question or complaint about a wrong answer on an exam or wish to make a grading challenge or appeal, you must wait 24 hours after receiving the grade and then arrange to talk to me about it during my office hours.

Questions and email etiquette: If you email me, please: 1) use polite language; 2) use a relevant and informative subject line that includes ‘LING 441/541’; 3) use your UW email or sign off using your full name so I can identify you; and 4) allow up to 48 hours to receive a response.

Classroom behavior/Academic integrity and conduct:

Students are expected to conduct themselves with the highest standards of academic ethics, honesty and integrity. Academic misconduct includes (but is not limited to) plagiarism, harassment, cheating, falsification, or disruptive behavior and will not be tolerated. It is your responsibility to read and understand the University’s expectations in this regard ( Any student found to be in violation of proper academic conduct will be reported to the Advisory Committee on Student Conduct for a hearing. 

Hand in your own work: I highly encourage you to study and work together with your classmates. It is ok to discuss your homework assignments, labs, discussion guides, and presentations. However, you must use your own words in all documents that you submit. Identical submissions will not be graded. If you have worked on an assignment in a pair or in a group, include a note about this in your write up. (Example: I worked with John Smith and Maria Muñoz on this Discussion Guide. We all read the paper independently, but discussed the method as a group. Each of us completed their own DG.).

Special accommodations: To request academic accommodations due to a disability (e.g., a note taker, extra time on exams etc.), please contact Disability Resources for Students (DRS), 011 Mary Gates, 206-543-8924(Voice & Relay), If you have a letter or email from DRS indicating that you have a disability which requires special academic accommodations, please come to see me at your earliest convenience so the proper accommodations can be discussed and met.

Religious accommodations: Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”


Hybrid teaching expectations: This class is conducted in-person.  Students are expected to participate in class to fully benefit from course activities and meet the course’s learning objectives.  Students should only register for this class if they are able to attend in-person.  To protect their fellow students, faculty, and staff, students who feel ill or exhibit possible COVID symptoms should not come to class. When absent, it is the responsibility of the student to inform the instructor in advance (or as close to the class period as possible in the case of an unexpected absence), and to request appropriate make-up work as per policies established in the syllabus.  What make-up work is possible, or how assignments or course grading might be modified to accommodate missed work, is the prerogative of the instructor.  For chronic absences, the instructor may negotiate an incomplete grade after the 8th week, or recommend the student contact their academic adviser to consider a hardship withdrawal (known as a Registrar Drop). 


Schedule Overview:

**Note: It is possible that dates, topics and reading assignments may change in order to accommodate class needs. You will be notified of any changes ahead of time. Always check your email and the Canvas website for any updates.


Week & Topic



Assignments due


1; Introduction

W 9/27



Syllabus, LM: Ch1

2; Origins of Language

M 10/2


HW1 opens, due 10/9

LM: Ch2; 2.1 - 2.6

I-LABS module 9: Sharing Attention

2; The Social Underpinnings of Language

W 10/4

Guest Lecture by Dr. Rechele Brooks

Lab 1 opens, due 10/11

DG 1 due

DG1: Brooks & Meltzoff (2005)

3; Language and the Brain

M 10/9


HW1 due, HW2 opens; due 10/16

LM: Ch3


3; Language and the Brain

W 10/11

Student Presentation (DG2)

Lab 2

Lab 1 due; DG2 due

DG2: Hickok & Poeppel (2007)

4; Learning Sound Patterns

M 10/16


Lab 3

HW 2 due; HW3 opens due 10/23

LM: Ch4

Video: Three Procedures to Study Language Development

4; Learning Sound Patterns

W 10/18


Presentation (DG3)

Naja to present Kuhl, Tsao, Liu, 2003

DG3 due

Lab 2 due

DG3: Pelucchi, Hay, & Saffran (2009)

Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu (2003)

Dr. Kuhl TED Talk


5; Review

M 10/23


Lab 3 due

HW 3 due


5; Midterm

W 10/25



6; Learning Words

M 10/30

Guest Lecture by Dr. Urška Fekonja


DG4: Marjanovič-Umek et al., 2012

6; Learning Words




HW4 opens; due 11/13

Lab 4 on your own, due 11/8

LM: Ch5 (skip 5.5)

7; Learning Words



Student Presentations (DG5), (DG6)

DG5 due

DG6 due

DG5: Bergelson & Swingley (2012)

DG6: Gillette et al. (1999)

7; The Word Gap




Lab 5

Lab 4 due


LM: Ch5, section 5.5

Golinkoff et al. (2019)

8; Intervention

M 11/13


HW 4 due

DG7 due

DG7: Ferjan Ramirez et al., 2018***


8; Music & The Brain

W 11/15

Guest Lecture by Dr. Christina Zhao

Lab 5 due

DG8 due

LM: Ch7: Box 7.4

DG8: Zhao & Kuhl, 2016;

Hannon & Trehub 2005

9; Speech Perception & Word Recognition in Bilinguals

M 11/20

Guest Lecture by Dr.

Adriana Luna

DG9 due

I-LABS Module 11

DG9: Byers-Heinlein, Chen, & Xu (2013)

9; Speech Perception & Word Recognition

W 11/22


HW5 opens, due 11/29


LM Ch7: p 257-280 (up to “Relationship between…”)

LM Ch8: p 300-303 (up to “Building a model..”)

10; Sign Language: Introduction

M 11/27

Guest Lecture by

Dr. Qi Cheng

DG10 due


DG10: Emmorey 2023

10; Sign Language and the Brain

W 11/29


DG11 due


DG11: Ferjan Ramirez et al., 2013

11; Models of Word Recognition

M 12/4


Student Presentation 5

Lab 6


LM CH 8: p 300-324 (up to “How important…”)



11; Wrap-up & Review

W 12/6


Lab 6 due

HW 5 due


11; Final Exam

Th 12/14 8:30-10:20 a.m.


Final Exam








DGs and LING 541 Student presentation assignments:

LING 541 STUDENT PRESENTERS: **Please notify me of any scheduling conflicts by Friday Sept 29th, 2023 at 11:59 pm. Requests for changes received after this date will not be accommodated**


DG1: Brooks & Meltzoff – original research – Presenter: Dr. Rechele Brooks

DG2: Hickok & Poeppel (2007) – summary article – Presenter: Ishaan Ambrish, Ty Gill-Saucier

DG3: Pelucchi, Hay, & Saffran (2009) – original research – Carol Lu

NO DG: Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu (2003) (just read the paper)

DG4: Urska’s Paper – original research – Presenter: Dr. Urška Fekonja

DG5: Bergelson & Swingley (2012) – original research – Presenter: Justice Quame-Amaglo

DG6: Gillette et al. (1999) – original research – Presenter: Richard Nguyen

NO DG: Golinkoff et al. (2019) (just read the paper)

***DG7: Ferjan Ramírez et al., 2018 – original research - Presenter: Naja Please also read all accompanying review materials. There should be a total of 5 documents. 

NO DG: Huber et al., 2023 (just read the paper)

DG8: Christina’s paper – original research – Presenter: Dr. Christina Zhao

NO DG: Hannon & Trehub 2005 (just read the paper)

DG9: Byers-Heinlein, Chen, & Xu (2013) – original research – Presenter: Dr. Adriana Luna

DG10: Emmorey 2023 – summary article – Presenter: Dr. Qi Cheng

DG11: Ferjan Ramirez et al., 2013 – summary article – Presenter: Naja

DG12: Borovsky, Thal, & Leonard, 2021 – WAIVED



Catalog Description:
Explores current research on language processing and development in adult native speakers and children, with a focus on sound and word-level representations. Topics include speech perception, word recognition, acquisition of phonology and word meanings, as well as a variety of methodologies that are used to study these mechanisms.
Last updated:
April 17, 2024 - 11:34 pm