Linguist 130a/230a – Syllabus

Brief description

Linguistic meaning and its role in communication. Topics include logical semantics, conversational implicature, presupposition, speech acts. Applications to issues in politics, the law, philosophy, advertising, and natural language processing. Those who have not taken logic, such as PHIL 150 or 151, should attend section. Pre- or corequisite: Linguist 120, or consent of instructor. 4 units.



Please use the Zoom application (as opposed to the Web interface), and make sure you are running version 5.3.0 or later so that you are able to create and join breakout rooms yourself. If this technical requirement is an obstacle for you, please contact the teaching team right away away.

Attendance and participation (10%)

There are 18 participation points in total. You earn 1 point for each class meeting you attend starting on January 19. However, this is not the only way to earn participation points. We recognize that you might have to miss some classes. Thus, you can 1 credit for each section you attend. In addition, there will be 9 opportunities to write structured responses to specific units of the course, and each one will count for up to 1 point of participation credit. It is thus possible to earn full attendance/particiption credit without attending any classes, though we strongly advise you attend class if you can.

The maximum number of participation credits is 20 (includes 2 extra credit points). Participation scores will be updated every other week on Canvas to help you track them.

If you believe you will be unable to fulfill these participation requirements, please contact the teaching team right away.

Quizzes (20%)

These will be administered via Canvas. A new one will be assigned essentially every day we meet, and it will close right at the start of the next class meeting, so that we have the option of discussing it in class. Each one will be about 5 short questions designed to make sure that you're keeping up with the material. They will always be open notes, open book, etc., but no collaboration will be permitted. Quizzes cannot be completed for credit after their due date.

Readings and associated assignments (55%)

Assignments will be distributed on Tuesdays and due one week later. They will often have readings associated with them. All readings will be distributed electronically via the website.

There are no final exams this quarter. However, assignments 6 and 7 will draw on material from throughout the course in addition to introducing new material, so they will play the intellectual role of the usual final exam.

All assignments should be submitted via Canvas.

Assignments must arrive before the start of class on the day they are due. After 10:30 am Pacific, they are 1 day late, and so on for subsequent calendar days. Late assignments will be graded as though they were not late, but then 2% of the grade earned will be deducted for each day the assignment is late, with a maximum penalty of 35%. All late work must be turned in by Mar 23, 11:59 pm anywhere on earth.

A special note about collaboration: you are permitted to work together on the assignments (but not on the take-home exam). However, you must write up and hand in your own unique assignment, and it must list at the top all the students with whom you worked.

Midterm exam (15%)

There will be one take-home exam, distributed on February 23 and due one week later, on March 2. This will be approximately the same length as a regular assignment, but it will cover everything we've done up through February 18, and the questions will be somewhere between quiz questions and assignment questions in terms of length and complexity.

Final papers

Since there are no final exams this quarter, there isn't really room for a final paper. This is awkward, because the final paper is a crucial part of the Linguist 230a experience, and essential for people taking this course for Writing in the Major.

To try to make up for this, there will be two paths through assignments 5, 6, and 7. For people not doing final papers, these will be normal assignments. People doing final papers will complete a slightly different set of questions designed to begin building a paper (assignments 5 and 6) and then complete it (assignment 7).

Anyone can choose this route through the assignments, but it is required for students enrolled in 230a and students taking this course for the Writing in the Major requirement.

If you are enrolled under Linguist 230a but do not want to write a final paper, please change your enrollment now, before it becomes administratively very difficult to make such a change.

Collaborative final projects are an option with a group-size limit of two. They require special permission from Chris, and the final submission must include a short section explaining how the work was divided among the project members.

The final project is an option for everyone (a requirement only for the groups just mentioned). Doing a final project is highly recommended for students who think they might want a recommendation letter from Chris.

Map from numerical final grades to letter grades

Grade rangeLetter grade
≥ 100 A+
≥ 94A
≥ 90A−
≥ 87B+
≥ 84B
≥ 80B−
≥ 77C+
≥ 74C
≥ 70C−
≥ 67D+
≥ 64D
≥ 60D−
< 60No pass

Academic honesty

Please familiarize yourself with Stanford's honor code. We will adhere to it and follow through on its penalty guidelines.

Students with documented disabilities

From Stanford's Office of Accessible Education:

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066, URL: