Prof. Liina Pylkkänen

Office hours Wednesdays, 12:30-1:30

TA: Maxime Tulling

Office hours Wednesdays, 11-12:30

Course description

What are the brain bases of our ability to speak and understand language? Are some parts of the brain dedicated to language? What is it like to lose language? This course provides a state-of-the-art survey of the cognitive neuroscience of language, a rapidly developing multidisciplinary field in the intersection of Linguistics, Psycholinguistics and Neuroscience. Lectures cover all aspects of language processing in the healthy brain from early sensory perception to higher level semantic interpretation as well as a range of neurological and development language disorders, including aphasias, dyslexia and genetic language impairment. Functional neuroimaging techniques will be introduced.

Undergraduate Requirements


Regular attendance at lectures and recitations.


There is no textbook. Instead, all readings are available on this website. You must be on the NYU network to access most journal articles.


You will write 2 short papers, one due before the midterm and the other after. Both will be critical evaluations of an original research article, to be made available on this website.
  • Paper #1: Assigned on September 27, due via email (PDF) to Maxime on October 11
  • Paper #2: Assigned on November 1, due via email (PDF) to Maxime on November 13

A midterm and a final exam

Both exams will be a mixture of multiple choice and short answer questions. The final exam covers primarily, but not exclusively, post-midterm material. There will be no make-up exams. You receive a zero grade for an exam missed without a written, valid excuse acceptable to the instructor (e.g., medical reasons).


  • Papers (2): 15%
  • Midterm: 35%
  • Final: 35%
  • Participation (in class and recitation, including discussion students' presentations): 15%

Graduate Requirements


Come to class (lectures and discussion/lab session) having done the obligatory readings and ready to discuss.


For your course project, you will design an MEG experiment, create the stimulus materials, and hopefully, collect some preliminary data. The final paper will be a (progress) report of your study. You'll be working in groups, or perhaps one large group, depending on the project(s).

Schedule & Readings

  Reading   Graduate Reading H&S  Hickock, G. & Small, S. L. (Eds.). (2015). Neurobiology of Language. Academic Press.
Date Topic Readings
September 4 Introduction, Goals, & Questions
September 6 Brain Basics
September 11 History:
Broca & Wernicke
September 13 Functional Neuroimaging & Electrophysiology
September 18 Speech Perception:
Disorders, McGurk
September 20 MEG Lab Visit
September 25 Sounds & Categories
September 27 Reading
HW#1 assigned
October 2 Dyslexia
October 4 Lexical Access
October 9 Legislative Day, no class (classes on a Monday schedule)
October 11 Alec Marantz: Morphology
HW#1 due
October 16 The Past Tense Debate
October 18 Specific Language Impairment, FOXP2
October 23 REVIEW
October 25 MIDTERM
October 30 Syntax-Semantics:
Neuroimaging Classics
November 1 Syntax-Semantics:
Electrophysiology Classics
HW#2 assigned
November 6 Maxime Tulling:
Cross-Species Language and Genes
November 8 Suhail Matar:
Syntax-Semantics: Prediction
November 13 Syntax-Semantics:
Basic Composition
HW#2 due
November 15 The Bilingual Brain
November 20 Sign Language
November 27 Williams Syndrome
November 29 Williams Syndrome (Oliver Sacks)
December 4 Hot Topic:
Intracranial (ECoG) Recordings of Language Processing
December 6 Hot Topic:
Decoding Of Language from Brain Data
December 11 REVIEW
December 13 FINAL

Lecture Notes