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Department of Linguistics

This is an archived copy of the 2012-13 catalog. To access the most recent version of the catalog, please visit


  • Chris Kennedy


  • Diane Brentari
  • Victor Friedman, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Susan Gal, Anthropology
  • Anastasia Giannakidou
  • John Goldsmith
  • Lenore Grenoble, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Chris Kennedy
  • Jason Merchant
  • Salikoko Mufwene
  • Michael Silverstein, Anthropology

Associate Professors

  • Karlos Arregi
  • Amy Dahlstrom
  • Jason Riggle
  • Alan Yu

Assistant Professors

  • Itamar Francez
  • Greg Kobele
  • Ming Xiang

Emeritus Faculty

  • Howard I. Aronson, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Bill Darden, Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Gene B. Gragg, Oriental Institute
  • Paul Friedrich, Anthropology
  • Eric P. Hamp, Linguistics
  • Carolyn G. Killean, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations
  • Colin P. Masica, South Asian Languages & Civilizations
  • G. David McNeill, Psychology
  • Jerrold Sadock, Linguistics

Since 1926, the Department of Linguistics at the University of Chicago has been at the center of the development of the field, counting among its faculty linguists of the first rank such as Sapir and Bloomfield. It is theory-oriented with a deep empirical interest in languages. One of its outstanding characteristics is its commitment to a wide range of approaches to the study of language. Interdisciplinary, interdepartmental study is encouraged, and students regularly work with faculty in several other departments. Students are expected to become active researchers as soon as possible after their arrival here. Many students come with strong undergraduate training in linguistics, or with a Master’s degree; others come with strong training in fields such as philosophy, mathematics, or a particular language or language group. The faculty are involved in synchronic and diachronic research on languages from around the world. These varied interests are reflected in the topics of the dissertations that have been written in the Department.


The University of Chicago operates on the quarter system. The graduate program in linguistics leading to the PhD degree is intended to be completed in five years. Graduate students normally register for three courses per quarter, three quarters per year. They generally take three to four years of coursework. In the first year, students take nine courses, three of their choosing as well as the following six obligatory courses: LING 30101 Phonological Analysis I, LING 30102 Phonological Analysis II, LING 30201 Syntactic Analysis I, LING 30202 Syntactic Analysis II, LING 30301 Semantics and Pragmatics I, and LING 30302 Semantics and Pragmatics II; they must also enroll in the colloquium series course (P/F). In subsequent years, students have a great deal of flexibility in course selection, though their programs of study must include the following: one course each in historical linguistics and morphology; a “methods” course (field methods, mathematical methods, etc.); and one advanced course in each of the following areas:

  • Phonetics/phonology
  • Syntax/semantics/pragmatics
  • Socio-historical linguistics

In years two and three, when students are writing qualifying papers, they must also take the Research Seminar.

A large proportion of courses offered in the Linguistics Department are advanced courses that are open to all students. The topics of these courses change from year to year, in reflection of the ongoing research interests of both faculty and graduate students, and cover areas of current interest in the field at large. Students are also free to take courses related to their research interests that are offered by other departments in the University.

In the second and third years, students continue taking courses and write two qualifying papers under faculty supervision. In addition to these major landmarks, students are required to pass reading examinations in two scholarly languages (normally French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or Russian, though others may be substituted upon petition to the department), and to satisfy a non-Indo European language requirement. Upon completion of the qualifying papers and language requirements and defense of a dissertation proposal, students are admitted to candidacy for the PhD; the only remaining requirement is the dissertation.

The University of Chicago offers several joint doctoral programs. Such options currently exist between the Department of Linguistics and the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Comparative Human Development, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, and the Department of Philosophy. Students from other departments who wish to apply for a joint PhD in Linguistics may do so only after completing the six foundational courses (Phonological Analysis 1, 2; Syntactic Analysis 1, 2; and Semantics and Pragmatics 1, 2).

Application and Admission

Completed applications for admission and aid, along with all supporting materials, are due in mid-December for the academic year that starts in the following Autumn.

Four parts of the application are critically important and should accompany the application: the student’s academic record, letters of recommendation submitted by persons able to describe the student’s achievements and promise, the student’s statement of purpose, which describes the intellectual issues and subjects which they hope to explore at Chicago, and a sample of pertinent written work that demonstrates the applicant’s research interests or capabilities. The sample may consist of published essays, class term papers, or a B.A. or M.A. thesis, or some combination of all of these. The student’s academic record is documented through official transcripts, but applicants are also encouraged to submit as supplemental material an ‘annotated transcript’: a file they create that lists all the courses they have taken which are relevant to graduate study in linguistics, with the grade received, the full name of the instructor, major texts used or studied, and a brief (no more than five sentences) description of the material covered in the course. Such a supplemental file is more informative for judging the preparation of an applicant than is the official transcript.

Students whose first language is not English must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Information about these tests may be obtained from the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ 08540.

When completing the application form, it is of benefit to the applicant to be as specific as possible in describing his or her research interests. General comments are of relatively little use; applicants are encouraged to discuss specific linguistic subject matters that they are interested in or have worked on.

If an applicant knows faculty members with whom he or she might work, the latter’s names should be given as well. The faculty of the Linguistics Department would be happy to answer any questions that prospective students may have. Please contact them individually regarding their research or classes, or contact the Director of Graduate Studies for more general or administrative questions.

The application process for admission and financial aid for all graduate programs in Humanities is administered through the divisional Office of the Dean of Students. The Application for Admission and Financial Aid, with instructions, deadlines and department specific information is available online at:

Questions pertaining to admissions and aid should be directed to or (773) 702-1552.

Linguistics - Linguistics Courses

LING 30101. Phonological Analysis I. 100 Units.

This course introduces cross-linguistic phonological phenomena and methods of analysis through an indepth examination of fundamental notions that transcend differences between theoretical approaches: contrast, neutralization, natural classes, distinctive features, and basic non-linear phonological processes (e.g., assimilation, harmony, dissimilation).

Instructor(s): A. Yu     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012

LING 30102. Phonological Analysis II. 100 Units.

This course is a continuation of Phonological Analysis I focusing on topics of current interest in phonological theory. Topics vary.

Instructor(s): J. Riggle     Terms Offered: Spring 2013
Prerequisite(s): LING 30101

LING 30201. Syntactic Analysis I. 100 Units.

This course is an introduction to basic goals and methods of current syntactic theory through a detailed analysis of a range of phenomena, with emphasis on argumentation and empirical justification. Major topics include phrase structure and constituency, selection and subcategorization, argument structure, case, voice, expletives, and raising and control structures.

Instructor(s): J. Merchant     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012

LING 30202. Syntactic Analysis II. 100 Units.

This course is a continuation of Syntactic Analysis I. It expands our examination of the locality of various syntactic dependencies, especially the nature of unbounded dependencies in a wide variety of languages. Topics include A'-movement and nonmovement in interrogatives, relatives, and comparatives, partial wh-movement, wh-expletives, resumptivity, islands (selective and strong), reconstruction effects, intervention effects, and the nature of successive cyclic movement. The course will have a strong cross-linguistic aspect to it, examining data from Korean, Irish, Hungarian, Turkish, Tzotzil, Swahili, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Slavic, Romance, and Germanic languages, Chamorro and other Austronesian languages, and varieties of Arabic, among others.

Instructor(s): G. Kobele     Terms Offered: Spring 2013
Prerequisite(s): LING 30201

LING 30301. Semantics and Pragmatics I. 100 Units.

This is the first in a two-course sequence designed to provide a foundation in the scientific study of all aspects of linguistic meaning. The first quarter focuses primarily on pragmatics:  those aspects of meaning that arise from the way that speakers put language to use, rather than through the formal properties of the linguistic system itself, which is the domain of semantics. However, a central goal of the course will be to begin to develop an understanding of the relation between pragmatics and semantics, by exploring empirical phenomena in which contextual and conventional aspects of meaning interact in complex but regular and well-defined ways, and by learning analytical techniques that allow us to tease these two aspects of linguistics meaning apart.

Instructor(s): A. Giannakidou     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012

LING 30302. Semantics and Pragmatics II. 100 Units.

This is the second in a two-course sequence designed to provide a foundation in the scientific study of all aspects of linguistic meaning. The second quarter focuses on the  syntax-semantics interface and cross-linguistic semantics. The class will introduce in detail a theory of the way in which the meaning of complex linguistic expressions is formed compositionally from the meaning of constituent parts, and the interaction of semantic and syntactic composition. This theory will form the basis for exploring some empirical questions about the systematicity of cross-linguistic variation in the encoding of meaning.

Instructor(s): C. Kennedy     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Prerequisite(s): Ling 30301

LING 30721. Dynamic Semantics. 100 Units.

 An introduction to the foundations and applications of dynamic approaches to natural language semantics. We will study the formal details and empirical motivations of various major dynamic semantic frameworks such as File Change Semantics, Discourse Representation Theory, Dynamic Predicate Logic, and Update Semantics, and see how they address a number of puzzling natural language phenomena such as donkey anaphora and presupposition projection. In parallel to the formal component, the empirical and theoretical advantages and drawbacks of dynamic semantics will come under scrutiny, and we will also pay close attention to the philosophical repercussions of a dynamic approach to discourse and reasoning. (B) (II)

Instructor(s): M. Willer     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Knowledge of first-order logic with identity strongly recommended. Students will benefit most if they have taken classes in semantics or philosophy of language before.
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 20721,LING 20721,PHIL 30721

LING 31000. Morphology. 100 Units.

Looking at data from a wide range of languages, we will study the structure of words. We will consider the nature of the elements out of which words are built and the principles that govern their combination. The effects of word structure on syntax, semantics, and phonology will be examined. We will think critically about the concepts of morpheme, inflection, derivation, and indeed, the concept of word itself.

Instructor(s): J. Goldsmith     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Prerequisite(s): LING 20001
Equivalent Course(s): LING 21000,ANTH 37500

LING 31010. Mathematical Foundations. 100 Units.

This course is an introduction to formal tools and techniques which can be used to better understand linguistic phenomena.   A major goal of this course is to enable students to formalize and evaluate theoretical claims.

Instructor(s): G. Kobele     Terms Offered: Winter 2013

LING 31100. Language in Culture I. 100 Units.

Among topics discussed in the first half of the sequence are the formal structure of semiotic systems, the ethnographically crucial incorporation of linguistic forms into cultural systems, and the methods for empirical investigation of “functional” semiotic structure and history.

Instructor(s): M. Silverstein     Terms Offered: Autumn
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 37201,CHDV 37201,PSYC 47001

LING 31200. Language in Culture II. 100 Units.

The second half of the sequence takes up basic concepts in sociolinguistics and their critique.

Instructor(s): C. Nakassis     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): ANTH 37202,PSYC 47002

LING 31310. Introduction to Indo-European Linguistics. 100 Units.

An introduction to the comparative study of the Indo-European languages.  We will survey the major branches of the Indo-European family and discuss various aspects of PIE grammar as it is currently reconstructed.

Instructor(s): Y. Gorbachev     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Equivalent Course(s): LING 21310

LING 31720. Sociophonetics. 100 Units.

This course examines the phonetic aspects of sociolinguistic variation and the social significance of phonetic variation, from the perspectives of both theory and methodology. By examining the relationship between social factors and phonetic detail, we also investigate how these different types of information are stored in the mind and accessed during the production and perception of speech. This course will focus on experimental techniques and mental representations of linguistic information. This course will give students hands-on experience with designing and conducting experiments. As part of the empirical foundation of this course, we will focus on sociophonetic variation across Chicago neighborhoods. For the final project, students are required to conduct a small-scale study investigating a research question of relevance to phonology and/or sociolinguistic theory.

Instructor(s): A. Yu     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Equivalent Course(s): LING 21720

LING 33801. Theory of Reference. 100 Units.

This course is a survey of recent theories of names, descriptions, and truth. We discuss the relation of reference to meaning, as well as the epistemological and metaphysical consequences drawn from theses about reference. After briefly reviewing classical sources (e.g., Frege, Russell, Tarski), we concentrate on current work by Searle, Kripke, Donnellan, Kaplan, Putnam, Evans, Davidson, and Burge. (II) (B)

Instructor(s): J. Stern     Terms Offered: Winter
Prerequisite(s): PHIL 30000 or equivalent required; prior exposure to analytic philosophy recommended.
Equivalent Course(s): DVPR 33800,PHIL 23801,PHIL 33801

LING 33920. The Language of Deception and Humor. 100 Units.

In this course we will examine the language of deception and humor from a variety of perspectives: historical, developmental, neurological, and cross-cultural and in a variety of contexts: fiction, advertising, politics, courtship, and everyday conversation. We will focus on the (linguistic) knowledge and skills that underlie the use of humor and deception and on what sorts of things they are used to communicate.

Instructor(s): J. Riggle     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Equivalent Course(s): LING 23920

LING 36400. Introduction to Slavic Linguistics. 100 Units.

The main goal of this course is to familiarize students with the essential facts of the Slavic linguistic history and with the most characteristic features of the modern Slavic languages. In order to understand the development of Proto-Slavic into the existing Slavic languages and dialects, we focus on a set of basic phenomena. The course is specifically concerned with making students aware of factors that led to the breakup of the Slavic unity and the emergence of the individual languages. Drawing on the historical development, we touch upon such salient typological characteristics of the modern languages such as the rich set of morphophonemic alternations, aspect, free word order, and agreement.

Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Note(s): This course is typically offered in alternate years.
Equivalent Course(s): SLAV 20100,LING 26400,SLAV 30100

LING 37920. Laboratory Methods in Sign Language and Gesture. 100 Units.

This course provides an overview of the methods currently in use in the fields of sign language and gesture research. Readings will include studies that use experimental methods that have been used in similar ways in spoken and sign language research, as well as studies that use methods that have required some type of innovation of technology or approach in order to be useful in work on sign and gesture. We will consider how advances in technology have allowed linguists to address theoretical questions concerning sign language and gesture in new ways. Since this course is a lab course, it will meet once a week to discuss the readings, and then in small groups in order to work on projects that will provide more in-depth understanding of the course's topics and related issues.

Instructor(s): D. Brentari     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Equivalent Course(s): LING 27920

LING 38000. Seminar on Grammaticization. 100 Units.

We will study how some lexical items and syntactic constructions specialize for specific grammatical functions. While critiquing some of the current literature on the subject matter, we will examine trends followed by different languages. Part of the critique will involve determining how theories of grammaticization are connected to the traditional practice of historical linguistics and what major issues arise today.

Instructor(s): S. Mufwene     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012

LING 39903. Structure of Russian Syntax. 100 Units.

Topics to be covered in this course include agreement, case usage, and word order in Contemporary Standard Russian.  Major syntactic features of modern colloquial Russian are also examined.

Instructor(s): L. Grenoble     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Equivalent Course(s): LING 29903,RUSS 23001,RUSS 33001

LING 40301. Field Methods I. 100 Units.

The field methods course is a two-quarter course, taken by graduate students and advanced undergraduates. (Students may elect to take the course more than once.) This course is devoted to the elicitation, transcription, organization, and analysis of linguistic data from a native speaker of a language not commonly studied. Students will also gain practical experience in the use of fieldwork equipment. Language chosen may vary from year to year.

Instructor(s): A. Dahlstrom, A. Yu     Terms Offered: Winter 2013

LING 40302. Field Methods II. 100 Units.

The field methods course is a two-quarter course, taken by graduate students and advanced undergraduates. (Students may elect to take the course more than once.) This course is devoted to the elicitation, transcription, organization, and analysis of linguistic data from a native speaker of a language not commonly studied. Students will also gain practical experience in the use of fieldwork equipment. Language chosen may vary from year to year.

Instructor(s): A. Dahlstrom, A. Yu     Terms Offered: Spring 2013

LING 40310. Experimental Methods. 100 Units.

This course will cover the basic methods for experimental studies, including experimental design, data collection and statistical analysis. To demonstrate different design and analysis tools, we will look at data set from different types of studies, including self-paced reading, acceptability judgment, ERP, etc. Students will also gain hands-on experience on different paradigms.

Instructor(s): M. Xiang     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012

LING 41000. Computational Psycholinguistics. 100 Units.

Theoretical linguists describe the relation between sentences and their meanings, and psycholinguists the relation between behavior and linguistic stimuli. In order for these two groups to interact, linking theories must be formulated to relate grammars to behavioral data. This course explores linking theories in a rigorous way. We begin with the classic competence/performance distinction, and the relationship between grammar and parser. The classical cognitive science approach to this latter takes them to be descriptions of the same process. Computational linguistics allows us to make this precise, and we explore the relation between grammar and parser in the simple case of context-free grammars. We then formulate explicit linking theories which relate either memory burden (stack size) or non-determinism (surprisal; entropy reduction) to behavioural data. The predictions of these linking theories are extremely dependent on the underlying grammatical assumptions, and we examine how to use them to decide between competing grammatical analyses. The goals of this course are to get you: thinking about the relation between theoretical and psycholinguistics; stating explicit linking hypotheses; able to use behavioral data to decide between grammatical analyses.

Instructor(s): G. Kobele, M. Xiang     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Equivalent Course(s): PSYC 41050

LING 41920. The Evolution of Language. 100 Units.

How did language emerge in the phylogeny of mankind? Was its evolution saltatory or gradual? Did it start late or early and then proceed in a protracted way? Was the emergence monogenetic or polygenetic? What were the ecological prerequisites for the evolution, with the direct ecology situated in the hominine species itself, and when did the prerequisites obtain? Did there ever emerge a language organ or is this a post-facto construct that can be interpreted as a consequence of the emergence of language itself? What function did language evolve to serve, to enhance thought processes or to facilitate rich communication? Are there modern “fossils” in the animal kingdom that can inform our scholarship on the subject matter? What does paleontology suggest? We will review some of the recent and older literature on these questions and more.

Instructor(s): S. Mufwene     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Equivalent Course(s): CHSS 41920,ANTH 47305,CHDV 41920,EVOL 41920,PSYC 41920,LING 21920

LING 42100. Seminar: Sematics. 100 Units.

Winter 2012 Topic: Inferential Meaning  This seminar examines expressions which give rise to implications and inferences not easily categorizable as presuppositions or conversational implicatures. These include some cases that have been argued to be either conventional implicatures or pragmatic presuppositions, as well as cases that do not clearly fall into any established category. We will look at how compositional meaning, pragmatic reasoning, and contextually encoded information contribute to the `inferential profiles' of the relevant expressions and constructions. Topics include implicative verbs, temporal prepositions 'before' and 'until', and various kinds of conditionals.
Spring 2012 Topic: Aspectual Composition  This seminar will investigate the way that the expressions that make up the verb phrase interact to determine the aspectual properties of an event description, with particular focus on the interaction between lexical and compositional aspects of meaning in verbs, nouns, and the morphology that links them together.

Instructor(s): I. Francez, C. Kennedy     Terms Offered: Winter 2013, Spring 2013
Note(s): This course has a different topic each semester.

LING 45000. Algonquian Morphosyntax. 100 Units.

A survey of linguistic phenomena typical of the Algonquian family of languages, including animacy-based gender, obviation, inverse verbs, deixis, noun incorporation, complex predicates, discontinuous constituents, separable preverbs, discourse conditions on word order, and templatic inflectional morphology.

Instructor(s): A. Dahlstrom     Terms Offered: Spring 2013

LING 47900. Research Seminar. 100 Units.

The course aims to guide students on their research in a structured way and to present professionalization information crucial to success in the field. The course is organized largely around working on the research paper, with the goal of making it a conference-presentable and journal-publishable work. Topics covered include abstracts, publishing, handouts, presentation skills, course design, creating and maintaining a CV, cover letters, webpages, and in general everything that is required for you to successfully compete for jobs in linguistics.

Instructor(s): K. Arregi     Terms Offered: Winter 2013

LING 50111. Vagueness: its nature, its semantics, its logic. 100 Units.

In this class we will draw together work on vagueness that has been done, over the last forty years, within philosophy, linguistics and formal logic. The overarching aim is to develop a coherent picture of what may appear to be (increasingly) diverging approaches to a single central theme.  Among those from whose work we will draw are (in alphabetical, not thematic, order): Dummett, Edgington, Fine, Graff-Fara, Greenough, Raffman, Shapiro, Van Rooy, Varzi, Williamson, Wright.  The professor will also draw on his own work, distant as well as more recent.  Through much of the course the context dependence of vague predicates will play a prominent part.  Students enrolled in the course will be expected to write an essay (of about 3000 words), which will be due at the end of the quarter.

Instructor(s): H. Kamp     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Equivalent Course(s): PHIL 50111

LING 52400. Seminar: Phonology. 100 Units.

Topic: Prosody This seminar will address work on prosodic structure. Research in the contemporary literature on marking prominence and constituent boundaries will be central to the discussion, and readings will include those that concern acoustic prosodic cues as well as those of the visual channel. In addition, some readings will address how work on prosody has evolved methodologically and historically, both as an autonomous grammatical component and as a set of phenomena that are studied for potential effects at the interfaces of other grammatical components.

Instructor(s): D. Brentari     Terms Offered: Winter 2013
Prerequisite(s): LING 30102 or instructor's consent
Note(s): This course has a different topic each semester it is offered.

LING 52900. Seminar: Morphology. 100 Units.

This course covers recent trends in the framework of Distributed Morphology and related theories. The topics include allomorphy and locality, the syntax-morphology interface, syntactic vs. postsyntactic accounts of syncretism, and the typology of postsyntactic operations.

Instructor(s): K. Arregi     Terms Offered: Spring 2013

LING 53450. Gesture, Sign, and Language. 100 Units.

The notion of gesture has been used in many ways and in a variety of disciplines. The study of sign languages has allowed us to raise a new series of questions about the role of gesture in language and communication. It is well established that gestures play an important role in spoken languages. What is the relationship between gestures used as an entire language (i.e., sign languages), and those used as a parallel part of a spoken language (i.e., the gestures of hearing people)? What cognitive mechanisms underlie the use of gesture in its various forms? How does the study of gesture shed light on the emergence of language? Scholars already working on gesture in the Humanities and Social Sciences Divisions may be invited to be guest lecturers in the course as time permits.

Instructor(s): D. Brentari, S. Goldin-Meadow     Terms Offered: Autumn 2012
Prerequisite(s): Consent of instructor
Equivalent Course(s): CDIN 53350,PSYC 43350,CHDV 53350