Empirical linguistics



There was a time when linguistic analysis was based on intuitions and assumptions. That time has passed and currently every linguistic analysis is based on real data. In this course you will learn how to acquire, annotate, use and exploit data for your linguistic projects. We will focus on speech data, but by the end of the course you will be able to apply the same methods to any of experiment (e.g. perceptual studies, eye-tracking, etc.).

We will use Praat to annotate and extract data and R and R Studio programming language in order to prepare graphs and make statistical analyses.


Course plan

  1. Empiricism versus rationalism: two ways of understanding linguistics
  2. Experimental design in linguistics
  3. Where do I get my data
  4. Data analysis



Continuous evaluation

The continuous assessment is based on class activities and two homework assignments. It will be based on:

1) Online questionnaire, classification of works and variables (10%)

2) Creation of a dataset (recordings/web scrapping, annotation of data, extraction of features) (20%)

3) Analysis of the dataset (creation of figures and stats using R+RStudio) (20%)

4) Report (50%)


Examination-based assessment

Under exceptional and justified circumstances, a single examination (100% of the grade) can be requested during the 30 first days of the semester using the proper form. The requirement is 10-page empirical essay to be written on a topic to be agreed with the instructor.



The resit will consist of delivering failed assignments. Only those students who score a minimum of 3 (i.e. ranging from 3 to 4.9) can opt for the resit. The only possible final mark after the resit will be 5. The resit takes place a week after the UB evaluation period finishes (January/February or June).


Prior considerations

Although no prior programming skills are required, students registering this course must have good basic computer skills (e.g. knowing how to create new folders, find files in your hard disk, identifying files’ path...).


Equality policy

In agreement with the University of Barcelona Equality Policy (Pla d’Igualtat), this course will incorporate a so called gender perspective that will include, among others, the following aspects: regarding class dynamics: we will try to ensure that everyone feels equally welcomed and encouraged to contribute to class discussions; regarding the content of the course and the readings that will be the basis for the different sessions of the course: we will use a bibliography that takes appropriately into account the significant contributions made by women to the topics that we will discuss and study; Regarding the grading of the course: we will try to be aware that unconscious gender biases might interfere in the process of grading problem sets, papers, and other aspects of the course, and will try to apply mechanisms to prevent them.



R tutorials: