LING 5050: Technical tools for linguists, Maysession 2015

Every week day 12:55-2:45
Oxley Hall 201

Instructors: Micha Elsner and Marie-Catherine de Marneffe

Office hours: Wednesday 3:30-4:30 or by appointment
Oxley Hall, room 222


In current linguistic research, it is often necessary to deal with lots of data (corpus or experimental data). This course offers practical training in standard computational tools for tackling different kinds of data for linguistic research. Students will learn computational techniques to access, search and format linguistic datasets, including text corpora, speech and audio, structured representations and experimental measurements. The course will also cover data exploration and visualization.


No prerequisite in programming is required: the course will cover introductory scripting in Python, R and Praat. The course is designed to be hands-on, and students will have the opportunity to work on the problem sets during the class sessions.

Course goals, learning objectives/outcomes
  1. Students will gain hands-on experience gathering, formatting, and manipulating data.
  2. Students will learn to use corpus, field, and experimental data, as well as to combine data from multiple sources.
  3. Students will learn to work with existing computational tools.
  4. At the end of the course, students will be able to process massive amounts of linguistic data.
The course is designed to stand alone, but also to provide an introduction to the graduate Computational Linguistics sequence. It is not a prerequisite for the Computational Linguistics courses, but is helpful for students who lack any prior experience with computational tools.
Content topic list

The schedule page and this one serve as the syllabus for this course.

Unit 1: Basic data manipulations Unit 2: Reading text and counting words Unit 3: Dealing with linguistic structured representations Unit 4: R and Praat scripting
Course requirements

There will be four assignments to turn in. Each one will require students to write a short program to perform some analysis of a dataset (for instance, assignment 1 is to write a Python program measuring utterance lengths by men and women in a section of the Fisher corpus). Students will work on the assignments both in class and at home, and will be encouraged to work collaboratively in small groups, but everyone has to turn in his/her own assignment.

Periodically there will be day to day short assignments strongly recommended, but that do not have to be turned in. Participation in class is mandatory.

A tentative schedule for the month is posted on the schedule page. Readings and assignments may change! Deadlines will be announced in class too.

This is a 3-credit course, graded on a letter-grade (A, B, C, D, E) basis. Students are expected to attend class meetings, complete reading and assignments, as well as actively participate in class discussions.

Homeworks (75%): Four homework assignments: the first three are due by the beginning of class on the Tuesday after they are assigned. The last homework is due at 11:59pm on the last day of class. No late homeworks will be accepted.

Participation (25%): Participation in class counts toward your grade; you are expected to show up, do the in-class exercises and ask for help if you need it.

Grades will be assigned using the standard OSU scale.

Website and Carmen

Materials for each unit will be posted on the website, as will the slides presented in class. Datasets which cannot be made publicly available will be on Carmen.

Note that email from Carmen is sent to your official email address ( You should read email sent to your official OSU account on a daily basis.

Make-up Policy

If you know you won't be able to make a deadline, please see me before you miss the deadline or exam.

Policy on Academic Misconduct

As with any class at this university, students are required to follow the Ohio State Code of Student Conduct. In particular, note that students are not allowed to, among other things, submit plagiarized (copied but unacknowledged) work for credit. If any violation occurs, I am required to report the violation to the Council on Academic Misconduct. See the Committee on Academic Misconduct's Frequently Asked Questions.

Students with Disabilities
Students who need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me to arrange an appointment as soon as possible to discuss the course format, to anticipate needs, and to explore potential accommodations. I rely on the Office of Disability Services for assistance in verifying the need for accommodations and developing accommodation strategies. Students who have not previously contacted the Office for Disability Services are encouraged to do so (292-3307;