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Program in Linguistics


Sarah-Jane Leslie

Executive Committee

Delia Graff Fara, Philosophy

Denis Feeney, Classics, ex officio

Joshua T. Katz, Classics

Sarah-Jane Leslie, Philosophy

Gideon A. Rosen, Philosophy

Associated Faculty

David M. Bellos, French and Italian, Comparative Literature

Matthew M. Botvinick, Psychology, Princeton Neuroscience Institute

Robert A. Freidin, Council of the Humanities

Adele E. Goldberg, Psychology

Gilbert H. Harman, Philosophy

Daniel Heller-Roazen, Comparative Literature

Casey Lew-Williams, Psychology

Edwin S. Williams III, Council of the Humanities

Linguistics is the study of the distinctive properties of human language and the cognitive capacities of language users, including the rules that govern the patterns of particular languages and universal principles governing all languages. Linguists investigate the grammatical principles and processes that determine the structure of human languages, their evolution over time, and their psychological underpinnings. 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). In addition to these basic areas, the Program in Linguistics offers courses in historical linguistics, language universals, language acquisition, and psycholinguistics. 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 with a particular interest in language and linguistics can pursue a certificate in linguistics. Participants satisfy the requirements of their chosen departmental major and develop a complementary course of study in linguistics as outlined below. Students may also apply to the University to be an Independent Concentrator in Linguistics.

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/ENG 213, Introduction to Language and Linguistics.

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 three courses bearing the LIN designation, or cross-listed with LIN. The program director may approve additional courses on an individual basis.

3. Senior independent work. Ideally some aspect of linguistics will be incorporated into the senior thesis. Other arrangements can be made if this is not practical.

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. Linguistics related courses in other departments and programs may be counted toward certificate completion with the approval of the program director.


LIN 201 Introduction to Language and Linguistics (also ENG 241/CGS 205)   Fall, Spring EC

An introduction to the scientific analysis of the structure and uses of language. Core areas covered include phonetics and phonology, morphology, the lexicon, syntax, semantics and pragmatics, with data from a wide range of languages. Topics include the biological basis of language, language and cognition, the neurology of language and language disorders, and first and second language acquisition. C. Fellbaum

LIN 208 Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary (see CLA 208)

LIN 210 Introduction to Historical and Comparative Linguistics (also CLA 210)   Spring EC

This course provides an introduction to the study of language change and linguistic relationship. We will describe and analyze change in the building blocks of language (sounds, morphemes, and words), discovering, accounting for, and extrapolating from regular patterns manifested in numerous ancient and modern languages the world over. Two 90-minute seminars. T. Barnes

LIN 212 Human Language: A User's Guide   Not offered this year 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. 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 301 Phonetics and Phonology   Spring 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 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. R. Freidin

LIN 303 Linguistic Semantics   Spring 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. E. Williams

LIN 304 Introduction to Machine Translation (see TRA 301)

LIN 305 Sociolinguistics   Fall SA

Human language viewed from a social perspective. Topics will include social difference in the use of language, and linguistic differences as a function of geography, social group membership, and social status. Staff

LIN 306 The Structure and Meaning of Words   Not offered this year 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 308 Bilingualism (also TRA 303)   Spring EC

Covers the linguistic, psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic, and sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism. Topics include: language acquisition in mono- and bilingual children; the "critical age" for first and second language acquisition; definitions and measurements of bilingualism; effects of bilingualism on other cognitive domains; neurolinguistic evidence comparing language processing in mono- and bilingual individuals; and the origins and circumstances of bilingualism and language death. Also addresses the contrasting societal and governmental attitudes towards multilingualism in countries like India and the U.S. Two 90-minute lectures. C. Fellbaum

LIN 309 Psychology of Language (see PSY 309)

LIN 312 Linguistics of American Sign Language (also TRA 312)   EC

Linguistic analysis of American Sign Language, covering phonology, syntax, and semantics. Staff

LIN 314 Linguistics and Language Acquisition (also PSY 302)   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. A. Goldberg

LIN 350 Deciphering Ancient Languages (also CLA 351)  

This course is an introduction to linguistics decipherment. We will survey cases of successful - and unsuccessful - decipherment, beginning with Ancient Egyptian and covering such languages as Old Persian, Akkadian, Ugaritic, Mycenean Greek and Mayan. Throughout the focus will be on the methodologies employed, and on the conditions that need to be present for decipherment to be possible. T. Barnes

LIN 360 Linguistic Universals and Language Diversity   Not offered this year 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. Staff

LIN 412 Advanced Syntax   Spring 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. E. Williams