Undergraduate Courses FAQ
Do any of the courses in Linguistics have a QR designation?
Yes: Mathematics of Language, Semantics I, Language and Computation I and Quantitative Linguistics. Some seminars also have a QR designation.
Do any of the courses in Linguistics have a WR designation?
Yes: Syntax II and Evolution of Language and Culture. Some seminars also have a WR designation.
What is the difference between Intro to Linguistics and Cognitive Science of Language?
Both are sound options for introducing you to the scientific study of language, and providing you with a solid grounding to build on in future courses. Intro to Linguistics will be a systematic overview of the field of linguistics and give you exposure to different areas of linguistic analysis. Most of the semester will be spent studying sound systems (phonetics and phonology), word structure (morphology) and phrase/sentence structure (syntax). Broader issues involving linguistic variation will also play a prominent role, including dialect variation, prescriptive versus descriptive grammar, pidgin and creole formation, and the distinctly human nature of the language faculty.
Cognitive Science of Language will situate the study of language and linguistic structure within the broader field of cognitive science, and will explore different methodological approaches (including linguistic analysis, but also experimentation, neuroscience, computation) to the science of language. This course will cover the fundamentals of phonetics/phonology, morphology and syntax, and will prepare students for further courses in these specific subfields.
What is the difference between Mathematics of Language and Language and Computation?
Mathematics of Language focuses on the mathematical underpinnings of linguistic theory and the cognitive science of language, including set theory, algebra, formal languages and theory of computation. In doing this, the course also attempts to teach a bit of what is sometimes called “mathematical maturity”: the ability to work with and define formal objects and to understand their properties through the construction of proofs.
Language and Computation, on the other hand, deals with computational techniques that are used for language processing by computers and modeling of language learning and processing. Some of these techniques are based on the mathematical objects that are studied in Mathematics of Language (e.g., finite state automata and context free grammars). However, the focus in Language and Computation is on algorithms and implementation.
The work you will be asked to do in the two courses will also be quite different. In Mathematics of Language, you will be doing problem sets, which will require you to formalize and/or prove things about mathematical structures, as well as apply these structures to linguistic problems. In Language and Computation, on the other hand, you will be doing implementations (in Python) of different techniques for spelling correction, phonological modeling, syntactic parsing, etc.
How is Language and Computation different from Natural Language Processing?
How does LING 227 Language and Computation compares to CPSC 477 Natural Language Processing, offered by Prof. Dragomir Radev in the Computer Science department? This is an excellent question: these courses cover many of the same topics and use the same textbook. Nonetheless, they differ in a number of respects. First, Language and Computation spends more time on the linguistic aspects of computational linguistics, exploring the strengths and weaknesses of different NLP methods for the modeling of specific linguistic phenomena. Correspondingly, it spends less time on NLP applications such as question answering, text summarization, and machine translation. Next, it covers a narrower range of topics that CPSC 477, spending more time on each of the topics that are covered. Finally, although both courses require programming, the assignments in Language and Computation are perhaps a bit less intense in that respect.