ENGL 399 (CFG)

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ENG 399: Cognitive Foundations of Grammar (CFG)


This course is an overview of cognitive linguistics, cognitive grammar, and related areas of psycholinguistics, dealing with grammar from lexical categories to sentence processing.

  • Tue./Thu. 5-6:15pm (3 hours/week)
  • Locaton: 317 Seogwan [Liberal Arts Bldg.]
  • Note: ENGL 413 (Theories & strategies of language teaching) has been cancelled due to curriculum changes in the English Dept. In Fall 2014 I will move to the Institute of Foreign Language Studies (IFLS), but I will still teach ENGL 434 (advanced composition) in the Fall.


1 Overview

1.1 Course description

This course examines the basis for grammar and grammar forms in human cognition. This leads to models of language that can be rather different from generative grammar. We will consider the following approaches that come from psychology research, or attempts to build psychologically grounded theories of language. We will also consider pedagogical applications for teaching English.

1.2 Materials

Handouts and materials will be provided on this website. There is no textbook for this course, but we will sometimes refer to the course packet. Because the course packet will be revised from time to time, you might not want to print it out (you can print out relevant sections as they are assigned). This packet in its current form is a work-in-progress and somewhat rough or incomplete.


1.3 Links

Student resources


2 Schedule & weekly materials

[CP] = course packet; [GF] = Google Form assignment; [HW] = homework assignment; [extra/optional] = not required

2.1 Week 1: Course intro; basic terms

  • See the intro section of the course packet.
  • [GF#1 Self-intro form ][due 10 March]


2.2 Week 2: Schema theory


2.3 Week 3: Schemas and metaphors


2.4 Week 4: Metaphor, polysemy, grammaticalization

  • [HW1 Homework: Research survey]. This is a language survey that you are to fill out about your intuitions about English usage. For this, your insights as a learner of English as a second language will be valuable for me, and the results will help with a later unit in this course. Print this out and follow the instructions carefully. Due: 25 March.
  • My review of Brinton (2008) on English comment clauses (for Thursday)
  • CP: Overview & guide to grammar terms (ch. 2-4), overview of schemas (ch. 5); also: phrasal verbs (ch. 50-54, recommended)
  • [extra, optional] Teaching Korean compound verbs, e.g., 버리다 and Diminutives
  • [GF3: Google form #3 ](due 31 March)


2.5 Week 5: Grammatical categories


2.6 Week 6: Korean and English verbs

  • [CP] Sections F4 & F6 (nouns), G1 (adjectives); recommended: B3-5 (verbs)
  • Choi et al. (1999) (Read the intro and main discussion sections; you can skip the details of the experimental section.)
  • HW2: Verb task. Due 16 April


2.7 Week 7: Korean and English verbs

  • [CP] C1-2: gerunds; C5: perfect tense; C9: get-passive; B6-8: argument structure configurations; D1-2: modals; F1: case


2.8 Week 8: Midterm project


2.9 Week 9: Argument structure, miscellaneous verb features (incl. Korean)

  • Dative alternation; various other topics to be discussed in class (no reading assignments, due to the midterm project)


2.10 Week 10: Miscellaneous adj. & verb features (incl. Korean)


2.11 Week 11: Definite & indefinite articles


2.12 Week 12: Sentence and discourse processing, reading psychology


2.13 Week 13: Reading psychology and learning

  • Be sure to read the Intro to reading psych handout above.
  • Homework #3 [due date: 31 May]


2.14 Weeks 14-15: Language and brain


2.15 Week 16: Final project


Note: I'll be in my office Tuesday/Thursday of finals week, 5-5:30pm, if you need to see me; or by appointment.

3 Grading criteria

These are some of the rubrics on which you will be graded (these might be modified slightly). First, here is a list of symbols I use in marking your papers: Editing symbols guide (my own system, which I use in grading your hard copy assignments).

3.1 Grades for Google Form assignments & other minor assignments

Short write-ups such as webform-based write-ups and end-of-class response papers will be graded along the following 10-piont scale. The grading is based mainly on effort, especially for open-ended questions. A full 10 points is awarded only for an entire assignment that shows very good effort.


points criteria criteria
2 Minimal effort The student does not try to answer, indicates that s/he does not know, or offers minimal or no response.
4 Low effort; and/or incorrect answer The student tries to answer but shows no evidence of making effort; may show serious misconceptions; does not use any information from readings or lectures (or from previous courses, knowledge, or experience) to formulate the response.
6 Low-medium effort; incomplete; partially correct or partially attempted answer, but still incomplete The student shows some effort or knowledge and uses some correct terminology, but does not provide a complete explanation. The student does not use appropriate information from the readings or lectures (or prior knowledge). Little evidence of original thought or analysis.
8 Moderate effort; nearly correct or convincing; The student answers the question with few errors and with some explanation. The student attempts to incorporate information from the lectures, readings, or background knowledge. The answers show some attempt at original thought or analysis.
9 Stronger effort; nearly correct or convincing; The student answers the question with few mistakes and with a complete explanation. The student incorporates information from the lectures and readings, and shows some original thought or analysis.
10 Very high effort; convincing, very informative, or correct responses; Student provides a very detailed explanation, with information from his/her background knowledge, other information, or other materials (e.g., information from outside sources), and/or shows great creativity, original thought, or critical thinking skills.


3.2 Major assignment grades

For some major homework assignments I may give letter grades, though I usually give numerical grades, on a 100 point scale. Grades at or near 100 are rare, and are mainly reserved for superintelligent life forms.


3.3 Final project

In grading your final papers, I will look at the following kinds of criteria.* Effective analysis, discussion, and/or argumentation; in-depth discussion with good, persuasive evidence or support for claims or arguments that you develop. Effective, informative, intellectually satisfying, and persuasive contents; in-depth, well-developed discussion of your ideas.

  • Improvement and better development in your paper between the essay 3 version and the final version (e.g., if the final looks just like the third essay with little or no improvement, that would hurt the final essay grade).
  • Clear structure - specific intro, thesis, topic sentences, development of ideas, transitional expressions, and conclusion / summary. Appropriate paragraph style, transitions, etc.
  • Appropriate uses of sources in your discussion and development of ideas, analysis, or argumentation; at least several scholarly / academic sources should be used.
  • Sources are properly cited in the body of the paper, and a final references or works cited section. All references cited in the body should be in the references / works cited section, and no sources should be listed in the final references / works cited section that are not cited and used in the body of the essay; also, use of proper citation style - proper APA, MLA, or whichever system you use in your field.
  • Dealing well with potential counter-arguments (potential objections to your views), if applicable, for your topic.
  • Proper format: title page (no headings except the title page; see the example under the Handouts page on the Wiki); proper line spacing (1.5-2X spacing), margins (2-2.5 cm), page numbers on each page (except the title page).
  • Papers should be proofread and revised carefully to eliminate any significant problems in word choice, clarity, flow, wordiness, overly informal or colloquial style, and grammar.
  • Appropriate academic writing style, tone and wording.
  • Appropriate length. I won't necessarily insist on the 2500 word limit if papers in your courses are shorter than usual. But they should be long enough to sufficiently develop your ideas.


3.4 Participation

Class participation will be assessed as follows:


criterion poor (D or C grade) excellent (A+)
Attendance Skipping class; often late; lacking or not providing a valid reason for absence or lateness; seemingly contrived or artificial excuses for absences or tardiness; overburdens prof. with questions about missed work or contents; fails to make up work in time Always in class and on time; contacts prof. about legitimate reasons for repeated lateness or absence; finds out from fellow students about missed work and contents, contacting prof. when necessary; takes care of missed work responsibly
Attentiveness Does not seem to pay attention to lectures; seems to be using devices or materials for non-class-related purposes; falls asleep in class; ... Usually focused on the lecture, discussion and class activities; well prepared
Active participation Not participating in group & class discussions or class activities; not answering questions or raising relevant questions in class; never talks to prof. after / outside of class about difficulties; or may try to dominate discussions unfairly, not allowing others a chance to participate Regularly participates in class discussion and activities; asks and/or responds to questions in class; sees prof. about questions or difficulties after class; does not try to dominate discussions
Quality of contributions to class & group discussions Likes to say things that are not relevant, tangential, or self-focused; no intelligent or insightful contributions; says little beyond what is obvious; shows little sign of critical thinking Has intelligent, specific, insightful, focused comments or questions; comments or questions demonstrate critical thinking skills and creativity