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LINGUIST 3NL3 Cognitive Neurosci of Language

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Kazunaga Matsuki


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 622

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: by appointment

Course 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.  The course consists of traditional lectures and assignments related to these and specific readings.  By the end of this course, students should:

  • have a good understanding of how neuroscience can be used to answer questions about cognitive processing.
  • understand how research informs theory and vice versa.
  • be able to critically evaluate research and efficiently seek out further information
  • gain experience summarizing and interpreting scientific journal articles
  • to formulate their ideas and arguments concisely and clearly in writing

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

There is no textbook for this course. Readings will be assigned prior to the relevant lectures, and will be available on AVENUE.

Method of Assessment:

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


Participation:                                         10%           

Assignment 1:                                       8%

Assignment 2:                                       12%

Article Selection:                                  5%

Article Reaction:                                   15%

Midterm Exam:                                     20%

Final Exam:                                             30%


Research participation = Bonus 3%



Attendance and active class participation is strongly encouraged. Students are expected to attend all classes and complete all required readings prior to class. It is the sole responsibility of the student to ensure they have all necessary information should they not be in attendance for the full duration of a class. While attendance will not be monitored, there will be several in-class assignments that contribute to the full portion of the participation mark.  In-class assignments will only be given out and completed in class, and cannot be completed or handed in at another time. Marks for an in-class assignment that is not done will be lost, unless a medical note is provided. These assignments will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

About Assignments 1 and 2

The two homework assignments are designed to give you a chance to think about some issues in more depth. Homework assignments will be distributed at least one week before they are due.  Homework assignments should be typed.  Correct spelling and grammar counts - use your spelling checker! 

Assignment 1 concerns analysis of speech samples from brain damaged patients who have different types of aphasia (language impairments).  You will answer questions about their speech within two typewritten, single-spaced pages.  Due date: September 28th

Assignment 2 is the larger of the two and is worth more. In this assignment, you will be given information regarding a ‘made-up’ ERP experiment. Based on the information provided, you will write a report that contains the Method and Results sections of a full single experiment APA-style article. The idea is to write it as though the experiment is being done for the first time, and YOU dreamt it up, designed it, and conducted it. The report will be about five typewritten, double-spaced pages. More detailed specification for this assignment will be provided later in a separate sheet. Due date: November 9th

About the Article Selection and Reaction

The Article Reaction assignment is an opportunity to read original research on your own and think of how the researchers could further pursue the research. The instructor will provide you a list of several research article for you to choose from. Read the abstracts of these articles and choose one article that appeals to you.  The assignment has two parts—this is designed to get you to spread out the work and keep you from putting it off until the last minute. Specification for this assignment will be provided later in a separate sheet.

Step 1.  Read through your article.  Then fill out the Article Choice sheet.  This short form asks you to state the main purpose of the research and to identify several crucial concepts or terms in the research.  This part is due October 21st, 2015.  See penalties for late assignments below.

Step 2.  Write a reaction to this article indicating what you perceive its strengths and limitations to be.  Suggest a new experiment that the researchers could conduct to pursue the research further or to eliminate confounds in the research that you have identified.  You will receive a more detailed instruction sheet to guide you; the final reaction piece will be about six typewritten, double-spaced pages. Correct spelling and grammar counts – use your spelling checker!  This part is due November 30th, 2015.  See penalties for late assignments below.

Exam Format

All exams will be closed book exams. Exams will be based on all material presented in lectures assigned readings. All assigned reading material, regardless of whether or not it was discussed in class, is eligible exam material.

Both the midterm exam and the final exam will consist of some multiple choice questions, some short answer questions (e.g., 2-3 sentence definitions of important terms), and a few short essay (1-2 paragraph) integrative questions. The final exam will be cumulative, emphasizing the most recent material – about 3/4 of the questions will be drawn from material presented after the midterm exam.  

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

All written assignments must be submitted both electronically (using and in hard copy, and are due at the beginning of the class on the assigned due date. The late penalty is 3% per day, up to a maximum of 30%. Assignments submitted more than 10 days late will not be accepted and will result in a grade of 0. However, late assignments due to illness or compassionate reasons can be submitted without penalty if it is accompanied by appropriate documentation.

Students with a documented reason for missing a course examination, such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., which is confirmed by supporting documentation (e.g., doctor’s letter) may request accommodation from the course instructor. Students must inform the instructor of illness within 48 hours of examination date. Further extensions or accommodation will require students to submit a formal petition to the Faculty. 

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

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 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 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:





Sep 9

Introduction to class


Sep 14, 16

Introduction to neuroscience, psycholinguistics, & research methods


Sep 21, 23


The anatomy of language

Assignment 1 Distributed

Sep 28, 30

Speech perception

Assignment 1 Due on Sep 28

Oct 5

Oct 7

Midterm exam;

Statistical Methods & Issues


Oct 12, 14

*No class: Mid-term recess


Oct 19, 21


Article Selection Due on Oct 21

Oct 26, 28


Assignment 2 Distributed

Nov 2, 4

Word meaning


Nov 9, 11

Word meaning

Assignment 2 Due on Nov 9

Nov 16, 18

Sentence processing


Nov 23, 25

Sentence processing


Nov 30, Dec 2

Bilingualism; Wrap-up and Review

Article Reaction Due on Nov 30

Final exam period

Final Exam