LING104: Language and the Brain

Fall 2020 Syllabus

Tuesdays & Thursdays 10:30am-12pm Online

**Exam 4 is due Dec 21 at Midnight**

Dr. Kathryn Schuler | Instructor
likes to be called: Professor Schuler or Dr. Schuler
remote from Philadelphia, PA (Neighborhood: Mt. Airy)
Office Hours by appointment

Yiran Chen | Teaching Assistant
likes to be called: Yiran
Office Hours Tue 2-3 EST via Zoom

Jonathan Scotto | Teaching Assistant
likes to be called: Jonathan
Office Hours Mon 1-2pm EST via Zoom


Welcome to LING104, an introduction to Language and the Brain! Due to the global pandemic, LING104 will be fully remote this semester. I know you probably have lots of questions about how this will work, so please ask. The best way to ask questions is to join the class discussion board (sign yourself up with access code: 8248). You are welcome to join and ask questions even if you are just considering the class. You can ask question about anything you like, as early as you like – if you are reading this, the discussion board it open for questions! You can even do so anonymously.


This course offers an introduction to the brain basis of language. Our goal is to introduce you to the study of the brain and language by combining basic concepts from linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. Through lectures, readings, and group work, we’ll consider a number of questions: What areas of the brain underlie language processing and acquisition? What are the fundamental functions of these brain areas and how do these functions overlap with other cognitive processes? How is language impacted when one of these areas is damaged? What are the methods and approaches researchers use to examine these questions? This is an introductory course and no specific background is assumed or required. Freshmen are very welcome!



Getting help

Typical week

Each week we’ll do two things (on Zoom): (1) explore a particular topic in language the the brain and (2) attempt to make progress on your Moonshot project.


Schedule is subject to change. Click on the day’s topic (lecture column) to following along that day (includes links to lecture slides, zoom recordings, and in-class activities).

Wk Lecture Readings Resources
1 Sep 1: Course Overview
Sep 3: CNS Overview
  Group Interest Survey
Notes on the CNS
2 Sep 8: Neurons
Sep 10: Moonshot Project Kickoff
  Notes on Neurons
Blog Practice
3 Sep 15: Methods
Sep 17: Moonshot 1: Pitch
Ullman Ch 7  
4 Sep 22: Cortical Networks
Sep 24: Big Question Pitch
  Blog 1 due Wed
5 Sep 29: Sounds & Phonemes
Oct 1: Moonshot 2: Solutions
Nishimura et al 1999 Exam 1 due
6 Oct 6: Words
Oct 8: Moonshot 3: Peer Review
Quiroga etal 2005 Blog 2 due
7 Oct 13: Syntax
Oct 15: Moonshot 4: Expert Review
Fedorenko & Blank 2020 Blog 3 due
8 Oct 20: Acquisition I
Oct 22: Review or rest
Perani et al 2011 Exam 2 due
9 Oct 27: Acquisition II
Oct 29: Moonshot 5: Prototype
Vissiennon et al 2017 Peer evaluation 1 due
Blog 4 due
10 Nov 3: Acquisition II No class, Vote
Nov 5: Article Summary Challenge
Petitto & Marentette 1991 Article Summary (due Nov 4)
11 Nov 10: Sign Language
Nov 12: Moonshot 6: Poster draft
  Blog 5 due
12 Nov 17: Bilingualism cancelled
Nov 19: Review or rest
  Exam 3 due cancelled
13 Nov 24: Bilingualism & Evolution
Nov 26: Thanksgiving Break
14 Dec 1: Cerebellum
Dec 3: Poster Feedback
  Peer evaluation 2 due
Blog post 6 due
15 Dec 8: Poster Session   Final Poster due
16 Dec 15: Finals Week   Exam 4 due


Grading scale

Minimum score before rounding.

A+ 97% A 93% A- 90% B+ 87% B 84% B- 80%
C+ 77% C 74% C- 70% D+ 67% D 64% D- 61%


Can I skip the fourth exam if I am happy with my grade on the first three?

Yes! You can skip the fourth exam and it will be dropped. Your grade will be based on the first three exams.

I noticed a mistake in the grading of my exam. How do I get this fixed?

We will look at your exam again if you make a formal re-grade request via Canvas within one week of getting your exam back.

I missed or failed an exam. What can I do to make it up?

Nothing. We don’t allow make-up exams or retakes. However, we drop your lowest exam score, so you can still do well in the class. Just make sure it doesn’t happen more than once!

Can my team turn in our blog post late?

Yes, but there is a 1 point per day late penalty.

I commented on blog posts (or did the research bonus). When will I get my bonus points?

To receive bonus points, you must (1) make a bonus points declaration on Canvas and (2) submit any required supporting materials. Your bonus points will be awarded as soon as you make your declaration, but we will check your supporting materials to confirm these points at the end of the semester.

How do I join the lectures live?

I’ll send a Zoom link just before our usual class time via Campuswire for those who want to join live. I’ll pause periodically for questions, and sometimes we will make use of breakout rooms for group work or class activities.

Do I have to turn on my camera or microphone?

Nope. I understand that there are many circumstances beyond our control at the moment. If you prefer to listen with your camera and/or microphone off, you are welcome to do that. I’ll never ask you to turn on your camera or microphone, and you never have to explan why.

I’m in a different time zone, will I miss anything?

No, definitely not! The lectures will be recorded so you can watch them any time you like. Class discussions will take place on Campuswire, so you can read through quesitons and discussions any time, and also add your own comments and questions whenever you can.