Department of Linguistics

Why study linguistics?

Because language is a window into the mind. Linguistics provides an understanding of the human capacity to acquire, perceive, and produce language and of language’s role in contemporary society.

The Linguistics Department at KU offers a full range of degrees: B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. The first linguistics courses at KU were offered in 1957. In 1968, Linguistics became a department and was authorized to offer a Ph.D. degree. Today, the unique strength of the Linguistics department is the systematic pairing of theoretical and experimental investigations of linguistic knowledge. Its nucleus of full-time faculty members in Linguistics, plus several actively involved faculty members in other departments, serves a student body of about 35 graduate students, 80 undergraduate majors, and many non-majors taking introductory and intermediate courses each semester.

Areas of special strength in the graduate program include Phonetics, Phonology, Syntax, First and Second Language Acquisition, Psycholinguistics, and Neurolinguistics, Semantics, and the study of Indigenous Languages. The department also cooperates with other departments, such as Speech-Language-Hearing, Child Language, Indigenous Nations Studies, Anthropology, Education and Human Sciences, and Psychology.

Research Facilities

The Department of Linguistics houses 7 research and teaching laboratories.

The Developmental Psycholinguistics Laboratory is equipped to investigate how preschool-age children acquire and use the knowledge of meaning in their first language. The lab uses various psycholinguistic tasks, such as linguistic comprehension tasks and the visual-world eye tracking paradigm, to assess children’s representation and real-time processing of meaning. The lab houses an eye tracking system with a remote camera designed specifically for children to participate in the visual-world eye tracking paradigm.

The Field Linguistics Laboratory provides an environment for on-site elicitation work with speakers as well as the processing, analysis, and archiving of field data. The laboratory is equipped with computer workstations and an assortment of audio/video recording devices suitable for a range of fieldwork projects.

The Mayan Language Acquisition Laboratory provides facilities for documenting the acquisition of Mayan languages. The laboratory processes audio and video recordings of children acquiring the Mayan languages Ch'ol, K'iche', Mam, and Q'anjob'al. The laboratory uses the Qanform software suite to produce transcriptions that conform to the Minimal Coding standard (Pye 2001). A uniform transcription protocol ensures that transcriptions for all the languages have a standard format. Transcripts are available online at the Adquisición de Lenguas Mayas (ALMA) website.

The Neurolinguistics and Language Processing Laboratory is fully equipped for multi-method, cross-linguistic research on the implementation of language in the brain. The laboratory includes a 70-channel Neuroscan Synamps2 EEG system for visual and auditory ERP (event-related potentials) studies, and two dedicated testing rooms for psycholinguistic experiments including lexical decision, priming, and self-paced reading. Brain imaging studies, including MEG and fMRI, are conducted at the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

The Phonetics and Psycholinguistics Laboratory provides an integrated environment for the experimental study of speech and language, including production, perception, and acquisition. Primary research areas in the lab are acoustic and auditory phonetics as well as spoken and written word recognition, all across a variety of languages. Software includes MultiSpeech and Praat for speech analysis and Paradigm, Superlab, and Matlab for collecting responses from up to six subjects simultaneously. Digital noise-free recordings are made in our anechoic chamber.

The Second Language Acquisition Laboratory is equipped with 5 computer workstations and 2 dedicated testing rooms. Computers are equipped with software (Paradigm) for running psycholinguistic experiments (including interpretation tasks, reaction time, self-paced reading, and speeded grammaticality judgment) and for conducting statistical analyses. Primary research areas in the lab are the acquisition and processing of syntax and semantics by adult second language learners, all across a variety of languages. Our research focuses on the linguistic and cognitive factors that impact acquisition at varying stages of development.

The Second Language Processing & Eye-Tracking Laboratory has 2 testing rooms equipped with computer stations for investigating second language speech and sentence processing as well as a head-mounted eye tracker. The research methods employed in the lab include speech perception and word recognition, cross-modal priming and masked priming, self-paced reading and sentence comprehension, and eye tracking in the visual world paradigm and in reading.