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Patterns in Language (Fall 2021) – Archived

Course Description

If a computer can beat humans at Jeopardy!, does it follow that machines can think? Is it possible to predict the spread of the flu based on patterns in Google searches? Did Shakespeare really write that sonnet? Scientists use patterns in language to answer these questions, using the same concepts that underlie such everyday applications as search engines, automatic translators, speech recognition, spell-checkers, and auto-correction tools. We examine these applications, focusing on the technological and linguistic ideas behind them and gaining practical hands-on experience and insight into how they work. No programming experience is required; students only need curiosity about language and some everyday experience with computers.

Course Details

  • Title: LING-UA 6 Patterns in Language
  • Section 001:
    • Online and asynchronous.
    • Instructor: Lucas Champollion – office hours Wednesdays 11am-noon EST on Zoom, or by appointment
  • Recitation (section 002):
    • Time: Thursday 3:30pm-4:45pm
    • Online and synchronous. Alternatively, you may attend from Silver Center, room 206.
    • Instructor: Hagen Blix – office hours Mondays 4-5pm EST on Zoom, or by appointment
    • First meeting: September 2, 2021
  • Recitation (section 003):
    • Instructor: Arka Talukdar – office hours Fridays 11am-noon EST, or by appointment
    • First meeting: September 3, 2021
  • Tutor: Mark Bacon
  • Prerequisites: None; this course assumes no prior knowledge of linguistics or computer science, and only high-school level math background. Don’t worry if you are not a native speaker of English.

How to contact us

Due to the high number of enrolled students in LING-UA 6 (about 100 students), we are asking students to post questions about the class on the discussions board on Brightspace at Please check if someone else has answered your question before posting. There is an option to post anonymously if you prefer, and in that case only the instructors will see your name. The board is monitored regularly Monday through Friday.

You can also contact us through one of the following ways:

  • Ask your TA in recitation.
  • Ask your question on Perusall.
  • Join our office hours on Zoom five times a week as listed above.
  • If you can’t make it to any of the office hours, request an appointment with the TAs or the instructor via the Brightspace Discussions board.


We will be using the draft second edition of the textbook Language and Computers by Lelia Glass, Markus Dickinson, Chris Brew, and Detmar Meurers.

Dr Lelia Glass, the first author of the revised edition of the textbook, will have access to the comments and questions you post on Perusall (see below). Your comments and questions will help inform Dr Glass’ work but will not themselves be published. Dr Glass will not have access to your scores or grades for the class. If you prefer not to be associated with your comments by name either by Dr Glass or by other students, you are free to post anonymously. In this case, only the instructor and TAs will be able to identify you. This will not affect your score.

Course requirements

For reasons of fairness related to the pandemic, there will be no exams in this class. Instead, grades will be based primarily on problem sets and reading assignments.

Problem sets (manual and programming) will be worth 85% of the course grade, and the lowest two problem sets will be dropped.

Reading assignments, which include Facebook-style discussions, will be worth 15% of the course grade.

Recitation attendance is expected but will not contribute to the course grade. Online attendance is encouraged.


Perusall is a free service that allows Facebook-style discussions to take place online and asynchronously. For more information, see

NYU asks me to include the following language in my syllabus:

“During this class, students will be required to use Perusall as a part of course studies, and thus, will be required to agree to the Terms of Use (TOU) associated with Perusall. Perusall requires users to be over the age of 18 in order to legally agree to the TOU and to create an account. 

Perusall collects, use, and disclose for business purposes, the following categories of information about students and instructor: Identifiers (such as name, email address); device identifiers (such as IP address); internet or other network or device activity (such as browsing history or app usage); education data; location data; user-generated content; and other information that identifies or can be reasonably associated with students or instructors. This information will identify users to Perusall and companies with whom it shares data. 

Perusall is not an NYU service and not supported by NYU IT. Therefore, the user should not use their NYU login and password. Login and password information should be unique.

You should read carefully the Perusall Terms of Use (, Privacy Policy (, and FERPA Compliance Statement ( regarding the impact on your privacy rights and intellectual property rights. If you have any questions or objections regarding those Terms of Use or the impact on the class, you are encouraged to speak to the instructor prior to enrollment.”

I asked Brian Lukoff, the CEO of Perusall, to comment on this and he replied: “We absolutely do NOT sell customer data. It is in our interest to keep all of our customer data secure and only used for appropriate purposes!”