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Program in Linguistics


Gideon A. Rosen

Executive Committee

Leonard H. Babby, Slavic Languages and Literatures

David M. Bellos, French and Italian, Comparative Literature

Robert A. Freidin, Council of the Humanities

Adele E. Goldberg, Council of the Humanities

Delia Graff Fara, Philosophy

Gilbert H. Harman, Philosophy

Joshua T. Katz, Classics

Sarah-Jane Leslie, Philosophy

Daniel N. Osherson, Psychology

Gideon A. Rosen, Philosophy

Edwin S. Williams III, Council of the Humanities

Sits with Committee

Christiane Fellbaum, Computer Science

Linguistics is the study of the distinctive properties of human language and the cognitive capacities of language users, including the rules that govern the structure of particular languages and the universal principles governing all languages. The basic areas of study include phonology (the study of the sound patterns of language), morphology (the study of the structure and meaning of words), syntax (the study of the structure of sentences), and semantics (the study of linguistic meaning). An understanding of these properties of human language provides a valuable analytic framework for students of language and literature, anthropology, computer science, philosophy, and psychology.

Students in the Program in Linguistics acquire the basic research tools for the formal study of language. Participants satisfy the requirements of their chosen departmental major and develop a complementary course of study in linguistics as outlined below. 

Admission to the Program

The program is open to undergraduates majoring in any department. Students should meet with the program director, usually during the sophomore year, to apply to the program and plan a course of study. Applicants will be accepted on the basis of interest and a coherent academic plan.

Program of Study

The program of study will be approved by the program director. It will include completion of the following requirements:

1. Satisfactory completion of LIN 201 or an equivalent linguistics course by the end of fall term of the junior year.

2. Satisfactory completion of four additional courses from the list of linguistics courses and related courses available on the Program in Linguistics website> . These four courses must include at least two core courses. The core courses are LIN 301 Phonetics and Phonology, LIN 302 Syntax, LIN 303 Linguistic Semantics, LIN 306 The Structure and Meaning of Words, and LIN 412 Advanced Syntax.

3. Completion of a senior thesis or comparable independent work in an area of the study of language. Some junior independent work in the study of language is strongly recommended.

Certificate of Proficiency

A student who fulfills the requirements of the program with satisfactory standing receives a certificate of proficiency in linguistics upon graduation.

Other Linguistics and Related Courses. Please consult the program's website for a list of related undergraduate courses in other departments. Other courses may be added to this list with the approval of the program director.


LIN 201 Introduction to Language and Linguistics (also ENG 241)   Fall, Spring EC

Introduction to the scientific study and analysis of human language. Investigation of the mental representation of human language based on a formal analysis of linguistic structure (form, sound, and meaning)--including historical and social variation and the related issues of the acquisition of language, and the relation between language and the brain. Two lectures, one preceptorial. R. Freidin, C. Anderson

LIN 212 Human Language: A User's Guide   Fall EC

Where does language come from? How do we know that you can't say it that way? And who has the authority to tell you? Why are some sentences better than others? Why do the same words differently organized have different effects? This course is about human language, its nature, use, users, and origin, based primarily on English. Major topics include the structure of sentences, paragraphs, words; language and thought; and the historical and biological origins of language. Two 90-minute classes. R. Freidin

LIN 215 Linguistics and Language Acquisition (also PSY 215)   Not offered this year EC

What does it mean to know a language? Is it something we learn or something the brain "grows?" What aspects of language are innate? Is parents' speech important in language learning? An examination of the properties of child language through the lens of current linguistic theory. Two 90-minute classes. Staff

LIN 216 Language, Mind, and Brain (also PSY 216)   Not offered this year EC

This course examines the complex mental and neurological processes that underlie linguistic knowledge and behavior. It will be concerned with the precise description and measurement of language activity, with its governing principles, and with available indices for the associated neural computations and their location in the brain. Seminar. Staff

LIN 217 Law, Language, and Cognition (also PSY 217)   Fall SA

During the past half century, enormous strides have been made by linguists, philosophers, and cognitive psychologists in coming to an understanding of the human language faculty. Some of this progress has direct implications for the legal system. This course is designed to study some of the most interesting of these interactions. In particular, it will ask how this learning should cause us to question some of the tacit assumptions about language that are embedded in the law, and how knowledge about the human language faculty can bear directly on the resolution of disputes within the legal system. Two 90-minute seminars. L. Solan

LIN 270 African American English and Syntactic Variation (also AAS 230)   Fall EC

This introductory course considers empirical data from African American English (AAE) in addressing ways that formal approaches in linguistics can account for inter- and intra-speaker variation in the dialect. This course will be in three parts: (1) a general overview of linguistic variation and a review of traditional approaches to the study of variation in AAE; (2) an exploration of the ways variation in AAE and other English dialects can be analyzed using methods in syntax; and (3) an examination of the ways in which AAE-speaking children learn the linguistic variations in their speech communities. Two 90-minute classes. L. Green

LIN 301 Phonetics and Phonology   Not offered this year EC

The analysis of sound patterns of human languages. Examination of articulatory phonetics as incorporated into a system of phonological rules accounting for these patterns. Survey of basic concepts and relations including levels of representation (phonetic versus phonemic), types and ordering of rules, and phonological change. Three classes. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. Staff

LIN 302 Syntax   Fall EC

Methods of syntactic analysis of natural language (primarily English, with brief consideration of other languages). Foundations of a theory of generative grammar, covering phrase structure, transformations, and conditions on rules and representations. The general principles of syntactic structure that determine the form and interpretation of sentences are a major focus. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. E. Williams

LIN 303 Linguistic Semantics   Not offered this year EC

The central issues and leading theories of linguistic semantics for natural languages. Analyses of specific linguistic phenomena will be used to illustrate the interaction of syntax and semantics, the relation between language and the world, and the role of linguistic meaning in communication and understanding. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. Staff

LIN 306 The Structure and Meaning of Words   Spring EC

The structure of words and the overall lexicon for human languages. Topics include word formation rules; the relation between syntax and the lexicon; the psychology of the lexicon, especially word storage and access; the semantics of complex words; the phonology of word formation; lexical redundancy and the learning of the lexicon. Two 90-minute classes. Prerequisite: 201 or instructor's permission. E. Williams

LIN 307 Language and Information   Fall, Spring EC

Intonation is used in a language like English for several purposes. Different intonation contours signal different sentence types--questions, for example, have systematically different "tunes" from declarative statements, as do rebuttals, heges, and other speech-act types. In addition, the placement of the intonation nucleus signals what is new and what is old information, as in the difference between "JOHN died" and "John DIED." The course explores the principles of phonology, syntax, semantics and discourse structure that constitute our present understanding of such phenomena, both in English and across different language types. E. Williams

LIN 308 Bilingualism (also TRA 303)   Fall EC

The linguistic, psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic, and sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism. The course examines language acquisition in monolingual and bilingual children, the notion of "critical age" for language acquisition, definitions and measurements of bilingualism, and the verbal behavior of bilinguals such as code-switching. It considers the effects of bilingualism on other cognitive domains, including memory, and examine neurolinguistic evidence comparing the brains of monolinguals and bilinguals. Societal and governmental attitudes toward bilingualism in countries like India and the U.S. are contrasted. Two 90-minute classes. C. Fellbaum

LIN 309 Psychology of Language (see PSY 309)

LIN 340 History of Modern Syntactic Thought   Fall EC

The history of syntactic theory from Chomsky's Syntactic Structures (1957) to the present, examining the evolution of mechanisms and principles of syntactic analysis, their empirical and conceptual motivation. Topics include phrase structure and transformations; constraints on rules and representations; the role of the lexicon; how syntactic structure intersects with interpretation, especially with anaphora. This course charts the shift in focus from complex language-specific grammatical rules to simple abstract grammatical mechanisms whose behavior is governed by general principles that apply across languages. R. Freidin

LIN 360 Linguistic Universals and Language Diversity   Fall EC

Linguistic theory accounts for what the grammars of all human languages share in common (linguistic universals) and the ways they differ (language diversity). The universality and diversity of syntactic subject, topic, voice, case, word order, and of constructions involving causatives, nonfinite verbal categories, relative clauses, and impersonal sentences. Two 90-minute classes. L. Babby

LIN 412 Advanced Syntax   Fall EC

Development of a modular theory of grammar involving subtheories of case, government, predicate/argument structure, and binding. Investigation of parametric variation across languages for principles of grammar. Two 90-minute classes. R. Freidin

LIN 435 Advanced Semantics (also PHI 435)   Fall EC

Advanced issues in linguistic semantics. Topics will include quantification, vagueness, presupposition, implicature, genericity, information structure, and event structure. E. Williams, G. Harman