Experimental linguistics uses quantitative methods to gather and evaluate data relating to linguistic theories in ways that are complementary to formal methods. Researchers at McGill use a range of experimental techniques to collect data from diverse sources: laboratory experiments, speech and language corpora, and natural interactions. We test participants from different language backgrounds and at different ages in their first or second language, asking them to produce words or utterances, to listen to and respond to spoken language, to judge the naturalness or grammaticality of written or spoken language, or to engage in conversation. Along with experimentally collected data, we have speech corpora from dozens of languages and thousands of hours of speech, which we use to analyze variability in speech sounds and prosody––across speakers, linguistic contexts, and over time. Eye-tracking equipment allows us to evaluate listeners' understanding of spoken or written language as it is being processed on-line. Advanced statistical techniques, with a particular focus on mixed models, are an important part of our toolkit, as is computational modelling which ties experimental data to linguistic theory. 

In line with the department's strength in bringing together theory and experimentation using diverse methodologies, we offer several courses which cover aspects of experimental linguistics, including: testing hypotheses grounded in linguistic theory; designing and conducting experiments in the laboratory; making use of corpora; and visualizing and statistically analyzing experimental data.


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