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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2013/2014

Term: 2

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Prof. Deanna Friesen

Email: friesde@mcmaster.ca

Office: TSH 602

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23761


Office Hours: Tuesday 10am to 12pm

Course Objectives:

Neuroimaging technologies have provided remarkable insights into the areas of the brain that are involved in language processing. This course will survey the current scientific literature dealing with the neuroimaging of normal and pathological brain function as related to language processes.

Organization of the Course

Classes will follow a lecture/seminar format during the 3 hour scheduled class. During the first 2 hours, textbook material will be supplemented by additional research, films, demonstrations and class discussion. The third hour will follow a seminar structure. Students will choose a relevant article based on that week’s readings and present its contents to a group of 5 students.The required readings from the textbook are central to the course. The lectures will serve to enrich, clarify, and illustrate crucial issues from the assigned readings

Course Learning Objectives

The purpose of this course is to assist students in both understanding the research on language processing and in thinking critically about the material by drawing on both theory and research from the cognitive neuroscience of language.  

By the end of the course,

- students should have a good understanding of how neuroscience can be used to answer questions about cognitive processing.

- students should understand how research informs theory and vice versa.

- students should be able to critically evaluate research and efficiently seek out further information on a  covered topic. 

- students should gain experience summarizing and interpreting articles in their papers.

- students should further develop their oral presentation skills & writing ability.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Denes, G (2011). Talking Heads: The Neuroscience of Language. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Additional readings may be assigned or recommended during the course

Method of Assessment:

The final grade for the course will be based on the following items weighted as indicated:

Weekly Papers:          (2.5% X10)      25%

Preface:                                                 5%   

Participation:                                        10%

Midterm Test:                                      30%

Final Examination:                              30%

1-page papers (2.5% for each paper, 10 in total)

Students will be required to submit a 1-page paper at the end of each class. This paper will be based on an article of your choice. Once you have read the chapter for the week, generate some research questions based on the chapter (i.e., a topic you'd like to learn more about) and seek out an an answer in the literature (e.g., psychinfo, pubmed) by reading 1 article.

Your paper should describe the question that you had reading the chapter, describe how and whether the article answered that question & finally describe any additional questions that still remain. You must also include a second page that contains the article’s reference in APA format & the abstract (copy & paste).

Participation (10%)

Class success depends on the participation of all students. At the end of the lecture component of each class, students will form groups of 5. Each student will take 5 minutes to inform their group about the additional article that you read that week and answer any questions. You will each complete a KWL chart and attach it to your 1-page paper at the end of each class.

To submit at the end of class each week

Page 1: Article Reference & Abstract

Page 2: 1 page double-spaced paper (worth 2.5%)

Page 3:  KWL Chart (1% for participation)

NOTE: You will not be graded on your paper if you do not submit a KWL chart.

EXCEPTIONS: You may submit a late paper with appropriate medical documentation.


Students will keep their weekly assignments assembled in a soft cover binder. This binder will be resubmitted at the end of the term with a 2 page preface that describes its contents. The preface should bring together themes found in your papers.  


Two non-cumulative exams will be given. Each will last 3 hours and be composed of multiple choice questions, identification questions & short-answer questions.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Lateness Policy:  Late assignments will not be accepted. Exceptions to this policy may be made for valid reasons such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc.but will require supporting documentation (e.g., a doctor’s letter).

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at www.mcmaster.ca/academicintegrity

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at mcmaster.ca/msaf/. If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail sas@mcmaster.ca. For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:




Jan 6th

Course Introduction & The Anatomy of Language

Chapter 3

Jan 13th


Chapter 4

Jan 20th


Chapter 5

Jan 27th

the Lexicon I

Chapter 6

Feb 3rd

the Lexicon II

Chapter 6

Feb 10th

Sentence Processing

Chapter 7

Feb 17th


Feb 24th

Midterm (30%)

Chaps 3 to 7 & lecture material

Mar 3rd

Reading I:

Chapter 8 (p.150 - 160)

Mar 10th

Reading II:

Chapter 8 (p.161- 172)

Mar 17th


Chapter 9

Mar 24th

Sign Language

Chapter 10


Mar 31th

Language Acquisition

Chapter 11

April 7th

Future Directions

Preface & binder due

to be announced


Final exam during exam period