Course Syllabus

LING 441/541

Language Processing and Development 1


Instructor: Naja Ferjan Ramírez


Class Website:

Class Time: T, Th: 12:30-2:20, SMI 309

Office Hours: Mondays 9:30-10:20 on Zoom, meeting ID: 998 2309 7900; or by appointment (email to schedule)


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 the materials that you’ll need for each week. All due dates and deadlines are noted in this syllabus (see p. 6-7). The course will be conducted fully in person, with the exception of 11/23 (recorded lecture), 11/30 (synchronous guest lecture via Zoom), and the exams (taken on Canvas).  


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 individual, 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. The PDFs are posted 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. There will be no opportunity to retake any of the homeworks or make up missed homeworks. Late submissions policy: you may submit your homework up to 48 hrs after the deadline. Note that we will subtract 3 pts (out of 20) for submissions that are up to 48 hrs late. After the 48 window has passed, we can no longer accept your homework. 


Discussion Guides: For each assigned research paper, 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 10 assigned research papers, and a DG should be submitted for each of these. 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, and both will be conducted on Canvas. The first is a midterm exam and will cover the topics of the first half of the class. The second and final exam will focus on the material covered since the midterm. The exams will cover information from the lectures, guest lectures, research papers, labs, and the readings. You will be able to take the midterm and the final exam at any time during a 48-hour time window. The midterm will “open” at 12:01 am PST on Thursday 10/28/2021, and “close” at 11:59pm PST on Friday 10/29/2021. The final will “open” at 12:01 am PST on Wednesday 12/15/2021, and “close” at 11:59pm PST on Thursday 12/16/2021. From the time you start the exam, you will have 60 minutes to complete it.  The exams are closed book. Cheating includes but is not limited to any of the following behaviors during the time that you are taking the exam: consulting your book; consulting the slides; consulting your notes (written or digital); consulting your DGs; consulting the lecture recordings or any materials associated with them; consulting your classmates, friends, or any other parties; consulting any class material posted on Canvas; checking or sending email; browsing the internet. If you have questions about this, please reach out to Naja prior to the exam

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, but at least 10 days BEFORE the exam, so that arrangements can be made.

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. There will be no opportunity to extend the lab period, or make up missed lab assignments. Because of this strict policy you will be allowed to drop your lowest lab grade. Please note that the material covered in the Labs will be included on exams. Late submissions policy: you may submit your lab report up to 48 hrs after the deadline. Note that we will subtract 1 pt (out of 5) for submissions that are up to 48 hrs late. After the 48 window has passed, we can no longer accept your lab report. 


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 shows 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: I will post all Powerpoint slides and all lecture recordings for the lectures that I will hold. The slides will be posted within the weekly modules and the lecture recordings of synchronous lectures will be posted automatically on Canvas (click the Zoom button, navigate to Cloud Recordings and find the date), as soon as they become available. The asynchronous sessions and the accompanying slides will be posted by the scheduled lecture time (1:30 pm PST), within the weekly modules. If I haven’t posted the day’s lecture slides and recording by the scheduled lecture time, please feel free to send me a (friendly) reminder to post them.

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 Disabled Resources for Students (DRS), 011 Mary Gates, 543-8924(V), 543-8925 (TTY), 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

Th 9/30



Syllabus, LM: Ch1

2; Origins of Language

Tu 10/5


HW1 opens, due 10/12

LM: Ch2; 2.1 - 2.6


2; The Social Underpinnings of Language

Th 10/7


Lab 1

Lab 1 opens, due 10/14

I-LABS module 9

3; Language and the Brain

Tu 10/12


HW1 due, HW2 opens; due 10/19

LM: Ch3


3; Language and the Brain

Th 10/14

Jieyu Zhou (DG1)

Lab 2

Lab 1 due; DG1 due (review paper)

DG1: Hickok & Poeppel (2007)

4; Learning Sound Patterns

Tu 10/19


Lab 3 (start)

HW 2 due; HW3 opens due 10/26

LM: Ch4

Three Procedures to study language development video

Dr. Kuhl TED Talk


4; Learning Sound Patterns

Th 10/21

Dylan Robertson (DG2)

Naja (DG3)

Lab 3 (finish)

DG2 and DG3 due

Lab 2 due

Dr. Kuhl TED Talk

DG2: Pelucchi, Hay, & Saffran (2009)

DG3: Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu (2003)

5; Review

Tu 10/26


HW3 due


5; Midterm

Th 10/28


Lab 3 due

Midterm on Canvas: see p. 3 for details.

6; Learning Words

Tu 11/2


Lab 4

HW4 opens; due 11/16

LM: Ch5 (skip 5.5)

6; Learning Words

Th 11/4

Laura Guo (DG4)

Poornima Ram-Kiran (DG5)

DG4 due

DG5 due

DG4: Bergelson & Swingley (2012)

DG5: Gillette et al. (1999)

7; The Word Gap

Tu 11/9



DG6 due

Lab 4 due

LM: Ch5, section 5.5

DG6: Ferjan Ramirez et al., 2020


Th 11/11




8; Bilingualism: Intro

Tu 11/16


Lab 5

HW4 due

I-LABS Module 11

8; Speech Perception & Word Learning in Bilinguals

Th 11/18

Dr. Amy Pace

DG7 due

DG7: Byers-Heinlein, Chen, & Xu (2013)

9; Speech Perception & Word Recognition

Tu 11/23


Lab 5 due

HW5 opens; due 12/9


LM CH 7: p 257-280 (up to “Relationship between…”)

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


Th 11/25




10; Sign Language: Introduction

Tu 11/30

Dr. Matt Hall – on ZOOM

DG8 due


DG8: Hall, Hall, & Caselli, 2019

10; Sign Language and the Brain

Th 12/2


DG9 due

DG9: Ferjan Ramirez et al., 2013

11; Models of Word Recognition

Tu 12/7


Emily Zhang (DG10)

Lab 6

DG10 due

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

DG10: Borovsky, Thal, & Leonard, 2021


11; Wrap-up & Review

Th 12/9


HW5 due

Lab 6 due


11; Final Exam

See p. 3


Final on Canvas: see p. 3 for details.


DGs and LING 541 Student presentation assignments:

**Please notify me of any scheduling conflicts by Friday Oct 1, 2021 at 11:59 pm. Requests for changes received after this date will not be accommodated**


DG1: Hickok & Poeppel (2007) – summary article – Jieyu Zhou

DG2: Pelucchi, Hay, & Saffran (2009) – original research – Dylan Robertson

DG3: Kuhl, Tsao, & Liu (2003) – original research – Naja

DG4: Bergelson & Swingley (2012) – original research – Laura Guo

DG5: Gillette et al. (1999) – original research – Poornima Ram-Kiran

DG6: Ferjan Ramírez, Lytle, & Kuhl (2020) – original research - Naja

DG7: Byers-Heinlein, Chen, & Xu (2013) – original research – Dr. Amy Pace

DG8: Hall, Hall, & Caselli (2019) – summary article – Dr. Matt Hall

DG9: Ferjan Ramirez et al., (2013) – summary article – Naja

DG10: Borovsky, Thal, & Leonard (2021) – original research – Emily Zhang





Course Summary:

Date Details Due