LIGN 143: The Structure of Spanish (Fall 2016)

TuTh 9:30-10:50am, Sequoyah 148
Section ID: 883265

Course website:


Eric Bakovic (Professor)

/ phone: 858-822-3206

Office Hours: TuTh 1:00-1:50 in AP&M 4151

Gustavo Guajardo (TA)

Office Hours: TuTh 11:00-12:00 in AP&M 2432

Course Description

Course catalog description: Surveys aspects of Spanish phonetics, phonology, morphology, and syntax. Topics include dialect differences between Latin American and Peninsular Spanish (both from a historical and contemporary viewpoint), gender classes, verbal morphology, and clause structure. Prerequisites: LIGN 101 or consent of instructor.

Spanish is the third largest language in the world in terms of number of speakers, sandwiched between English and Arabic (Mandarin Chinese is #1). In the United States — and, of course, in California — Spanish is second to English. This is a course about the grammar of Spanish. Like all languages, Spanish varies from speech community to speech community. The linguistic differences among these different speech communities are highly systematic, in ways that we will investigate in this course.


LIGN 101 is the main prerequisite for this course. Students who have not taken this prerequisite or its equivalent will either have to concurrently enroll in LIGN 101 or somehow get up to speed with the material covered in LIGN 101. (If you have not already taken LIGN 101, let us know immediately, before you get lost!) Note that knowledge of Spanish or some other Romance language (French, Italian, Portuguese, etc.) will likely be helpful, but it is not required.


In this course you will learn about Spanish word and sentence structure, Spanish sounds and sound patterns, and about how all of these things can differ in different varieties (dialects) of Spanish. What you learn in this course will help you to understand more about the Spanish language and about linguistics more generally, but the course is not specifically designed to help you improve your Spanish in any particular way.


There is no textbook for the course, but we will regularly distribute fairly detailed handouts, and possibly occasional short readings, covering some of the material discussed in class. You should use these to make sure you understand the course material. Please read them carefully, and ask us any questions you may have about them.

Course Details and Policies

Ground rules

Principles of Community

We should all abide by the UC San Diego Principles of Community. This applies both in and out of class.

Devices in the classroom

The use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones is not permitted in this classroom, unless you make a case and receive special permission from the professor in advance. Electronic screens serve as a barrier between you and me. Worse, they can be a terrible distraction to students sitting near you. The material we'll be covering is not conducive to electronic note-taking, and electronic note-taking in general seems to be less effective than hand-written (Mueller & Oppenheimer 2014; see here or here or here or here or here for relevant discussion).

If you are used to taking notes on your laptop or a tablet, please just bring and use traditional pen/pencil and paper instead and then transfer your notes to your computer after class. The extra time you take to transfer your notes may improve your retention of the material.

As a courtesy to others, please turn off and put away your devices and other noisemakers before coming to class.

Academic Integrity policy

Please take some time to read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. We will be conducting this course in full accordance with this policy. In particular, any suspected cheating or plagiarism in the course will be taken very seriously and investigated. If we determine that cheating or plagiarism has taken place, it will be reported to the Academic Integrity Office, in accordance with UCSD policy. Please note that it is not at our discretion whether or not to report instances of suspected academic dishonesty: we are obligated by UCSD policy to report such instances.

Here are some examples of academic integrity violations. DO NOT DO THESE!!!
  • Taking credit for someone else's work.
  • Copying someone else's assignment.
  • Changing a graded assignment and returning it for a regrade.
  • Finding the answer key to an assignment (e.g., on the web) and copying it.
  • Giving a false reason (e.g., death of a relative) for turning an assignment in late.
This is not an exhaustive list — please read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and use your common sense!

10 things I will value from you

This recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education says it pretty well. Give it a read and see.


Office hours

We offer office hours at the times listed further above. We encourage you to come to our office hours if you have any questions about the course. You can also try to make an appointment (in person or via email) with us if our office hours aren't convenient for you for some good reason.

Online resources

All (links to) materials will be made available on the course website as they are distributed or assigned. There will also be general announcements and links to other useful and relevant information available there, so please check it often.

Course lectures will also be podcast (with video when something is projected).

Online communication

Communications about any aspects of the course can be sent to us via email (or, of course, discussed with us in person). Keep in mind that there's no guarantee that you'll get a reply immediately; for example, Prof. Bakovic only handles email once or twice a day, usually only on weekdays, and never before 10am or after 5pm. Please be patient, and politely follow up if more than one day have gone by (not including the weekend).

All of these communications must be courteous and respectful if you expect a response! We're happy to take time to help you with anything related to the course, but only if you are polite with your requests for that time — and acknowledge the time that we take to help you with a simple thank-you.

Often someone asks a question via email that is thus worth passing on to other students in the course. Unless you request in advance that we not do this, we will likely (rephrase and) rebroadcast these questions, along with our answers, on the course website. (In such a case, we will not rebroadcast the identity of the questioner.)


Attendance (5% of your course grade)

Attendance will be recorded every class period. Given 20 class periods, an absence is worth 0.25% of your course grade. (A class participation bonus will be assigned at Prof. Bakovic's discretion, and is likely to make a difference in cases of borderline grades.)

The course consists of two obligatory lectures of 80 minutes each per week. Regular attendance in lecture is extremely important. The course material is unlikely to make much sense unless you attend class regularly. Don't miss class and don't be perpetually tardy unless you have a very good excuse (which you should tell us about in advance).

If you have to miss a class for any reason, don't expect a run-down of the class you missed. Find out what happened in class from the course website or from a classmate, look the material over carefully, and only then come to one of us with any remaining questions you may have. On the other hand, if you have something else to do during classtime, we'd all rather you just didn’t come to class. It's not doing you any good to waste your time in the classroom if you're not paying attention, and it's distracting to everyone else. It's OK if you occasionally have to arrive late, or to leave early — but when you do, please be sure to do it as discreetly as possible, without disruption.

Homework assignments (80% of your course grade)

We will use CrowdGrader for submission and review of a total of 4 homework assignments. More details to follow, but the basic idea is that you will each submit your completed homework to CrowdGrader, and then you will each be given 5 of your classmates' homework submissions to review and score anonymously (according to a pre-specified rubric). Your own grade for the full assignment will be a weighted average of the scores that your classmates give to your homework submission (80%) plus a weighted average of the usefulness of your reviews of your classmates' homework submissions (20%).

The first of the 4 homework assignments is worth 50% of your course grade. You will receive full credit just for submitting your homework (40%) and for performing your review and scoring duties (10%). This assignment is effectively a test of the CrowdGrader system, to get everyone used to using it — your main incentive to do well on it is to have practice for the other 3 assignments. Each of the remaining 3 assignments is worth 10% of your course grade (8% for the submitted homework, 2% for your reviews & scoring; 30% total).

Take-home final assignment (10% of your course grade)

This will be similar to a homework assignment, except that (i) you will have a week to complete it (from the last day of class on Thursday, Dec. 1 to our scheduled final exam date on Thursday, Dec. 8), and (ii) we will not use CrowdGrader for this assignment because the instructors will be doing all of the reviewing and grading.

Experiment participation (5% of your course grade)

You are required to earn one credit for participation in an experiment via the Department of Psychology subject pool; for sign-up and details, visit There are several language-related experiments in which you can choose to participate, in addition to experiments in other areas of psychology and cognitive science. One credit is equal to approximately one hour of experiment participation. Do not wait until the last week to participate, there may not be experiments available! The last day to fulfill this requirement is the Wednesday before finals week. Get on it!

If you are opposed to experiment participation, you must request an alternative from Prof. Bakovic, preferably via email, by 5pm on Thursday, Oct. 27 at the latest.

You can find the latest SONA student information sheet here.

Collaboration policy

You are welcome to discuss all assignments with others in the class, so long as (a) you write up your assignment entirely on your own and (b) you specify who you discussed that assignment with via a UCSD-specific Google Form that we will link to when every assignment is due.

Late work policy

Accommodations for late work may be granted, if you communicate with Prof. Bakovic no later than the assignment's due date giving your reasons for needing to submit your work late. All late homeworks must be submitted directly to Prof. Bakovic via email for reviewing and grading (that is, you will not be able to submit them via CrowdGrader for review or scoring by your classmates); late reviews and scores for other students' work will still be handled on CrowdGrader.

Review & grade correction policy

We all make mistakes, so please do look over your reviews, scores, and assignment grades carefully. In addition to helping ensure that you get the credit you deserve, this checking will improve your retention of the material. However, there is a statute of limitations: all reviewing, scoring, and grading issues must be brought to our attention within one week of the grade for the assignment being recorded. Note that by asking for any of your work to be re-reviewed and re-graded you take on the risk that we will notice a problem that had not been noticed before and that we may actually end up giving you a lower grade than you were originally awarded. So while we encourage you to bring any necessary issues to our attention, for your own sake you should do so only when you're fairly confident that you really did receive less credit than you deserved. (For example, you may want to compare your work & grade with those of some of your classmates first.) Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Materials Assignments
0 Thu Sep 22 Overview of the course; history & variation slides

1 Tue Sep 27 Basic word order handout

Thu Sep 29 Basic word order (cont'd) handout HW 1 assigned
2 Tue Oct 04 Agreement: person, number, and gender handout HW 1 due
Thu Oct 06 Sex, gender, and noun classes handout HW 1 reviews due
3 Tue Oct 11 Verb conjugation handout

Thu Oct 13 Pronouns, agreement, and clitics handout HW 2 assigned
4 Tue Oct 18 Clitic order handout HW 2 due
Thu Oct 20 Standard Spanish phonetics handout HW 2 reviews due
5 Tue Oct 25 Obstruents handout

Thu Oct 27 Sonorant consonants handout HW 3 assigned
6 Tue Nov 01 Vocoids handout HW 3 due
Thu Nov 03 Dialect variation: hiatus resolution handout

7 Tue Nov 08 Syllable structure handout

Thu Nov 10 [class cancelled due to illness]

8 Tue Nov 15 Dialect variation: nasals (see 11/17 handout) HW 4 assigned
Thu Nov 17 Onset preferences, coda conditions, and morphosyntactic structure handout

9 Tue Nov 22 An analysis of taps and trills
HW 4 due
10 Tue Nov 29 Stress accent handout

Thu Dec 01 Stress accent (cont'd)
Take-home final assigned
11 Thu Dec 08 [Final exam period 8-11am -- but, we have no final exam!]
Take-home final due