Ling 431, Spring 2005

Linguistics 431: Investigations in an unfamiliar language*

Jose Camacho, Rutgers University



Room 001, Department of Linguistics (on CAC), 18 Seminary Place, MTh 11:30-12:50

Contact info

Instructor: Jose Camacho

Office hours:

CAC office (Language Lab, 109) DC office (Carpender House, 303)
Time: M-Th: 10:00-11:00 Time: by appointment
Phone: 732-932-3219 Phone: 932-9412 x32


Class link:

Course overview

This course will provide opportunities to develop and test linguistic hypotheses dynamically with a native speaker. It

builds on the results of other linguistics classes (syntax, phonology, etc.), in that the theories developed in those

classes provide the background for studying a particular language, which in this course is Polish. The basic

coverage of the first half of the class will be the phonemic system and foundations in morphosyntax, attempting to

describe the basic sound structures of Polish, identify how subjects and objects are marked, and the basic word

order of simple sentences. The second half of the class will be on focused research topics that arise out of the first


Testing linguistic hypotheses .dynamically. means that much of the class time will involve stating the

predictions of some initial hypothesis, or set of hypotheses, and then going on to try to collect data that can confirm

or disconfirm these hypotheses and perhaps lead to new ones. The principal difference between this class and other

linguistics classes is therefore that the focus is on a particular language and that much of the data relevant for the

analyses given for Polish will be collected first hand.

Class procedures

The 2 linguistic consultants  for the class will be working with us  on Thursdays (marked with an * on the syllabus). They 

will be available from 11-1, working in the necessary breaks. Our general procedure will therefore be to prepare for data collection 

sessions on Mondays, identifying  the chief questions we are interested in and what methods we intend to use to answer them. 

The class will be divided into 6 working groups, each of which will have weekly 25 minute sessions with one of the consultants. 

Each student will be responsible for  responsible for at least one elicitation session, and one of the requirements of the course is 

to write an  elicitation summary., which has both a statement of the goals of the data collection session and a follow-up summary of data



Articles will be available online through the library.


The essential work for the class will involve coming to class and participating actively in class discussions and

completing a set of assignments in a timely fashion. There are four types of assignments: three short homeworks

designed to hone your analytical skills in particular areas of linguistics, two small projects (one on phonemics and

another on basic clause structure), a research paper on a topic defined by the student, and an elicitation report that

documents the research questions and results of a student-direct elicitation session. Assignments should be turned in

on time. Only one assignment will be accepted beyond its deadline. All other late assignments will not receive


Basis for grading

Grades will be calculated as a simple average of the grades of individual assignments, according to the following


            -the homeworks receive a basic grade (on a 1-100 point value system),

            -the two projects are each worth two homeworks,

            -the research paper is worth three homeworks,

            -and each of the 3 elicitation reports is worth one homework.


So, the basic formula is as follows: (3 homeworks * 1) + (2 projects * 2) + (1 paper * 3) + (3 elicitation reports * 1) = grade.


Schedule of topics and assignments

Part I. Foundations in sound structures

Jan. 27: Introduction to class goals and methods

Reading: Munro article

 Jan. 31: Elicitation techniques, working with human subjects

Reading: Samarin chapter

Feb. 3*:  Begin word list,  phonemes of Polish Link to Lagefoded's A Course in Phonetics

Reading: Rothstein article (pp. 686-696)

Feb. 7, 10*: Refine transcriptions, elicitation techniques

Assignment 1: phonemic analysis homework (due Feb. 14) Session 2 recordings (mp3, large file!), and another file, and another one

Feb. 14, 17*: Focus on syllable structure. Finalize and analyze word list, compare with published materials (see, for example Schmidt and Marek

Assignment 2: phonemics of Polish project (due Feb. 24), first elicitation report due Feb. 21 Session file 1, 2 and 3, and another one (2/17)

Mid-semester course evaluation (anonymous)

Part II. Foundations in morpho-syntax

Feb. 21, 24*:  Introduction to morpho-syntax. Morpheme inventory Session file 1, 2 and 3 and another one

Reading: Payne chapter 2 (pp. 20-31)

Feb.  28, March 3*: word classes and distributional properties Session file 1, 2 and 3 and another one

Reading: Payne chapter 3-4 (pp. 32-90)

Assignment 3: Word classes (due Mar.10)

Mar. 7, 10*: subjects and objects, constituent order part I. Session file 1, 2 and 3  Word order guidelines

Mar. 21, 24*: constituent order part II, clarifying further research problems. Session file 1 and 2 and another one

Reading: instructions for research paper. Think of a topic

Assignment 4: basic clause structure assignment (due Mar. 28), second elicitation report due March 24

N.b.: Mar. 14th-17th is spring break

Part III. Focused research

Mar. 28, 31*: identifying research projects and the scope of the final paper,  Session file 1, 23 and  4

Assignment: statement of intent for final project (due Mar. 31)

Apr. 4, 7*: analytical elicitations I

Reading: Rice article

Apr. 11, 14*: analytical elicitations II

Assignment: elicitation reports due

Apr. 18, 21*: analytical elicitations III

Apr. 25, 28*: analytical elicitations IV, 3rd. elicitation report due April 28

May 2: analytical elicitations V

Assignment: final project due May 9th

*Thanks to prof. John Alderete for access to his 2003 syllabus and other materials.