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. Additional topics include language acquisition, language and the brain, and language change.
Introduction to Language and Linguistics
Professor/InstructorByron T. Ahn, Christiane Dorothea Fellbaum, Laura Kalin
Origins and Nature of English Vocabulary
The origins and nature of English vocabulary, from proto-Indo-European prehistory to current slang. Emphasis on the Greek and Latin component of English vocabulary, including technical terminology (medical/scientific, legal, and humanistic). Related topics: the alphabet and English spelling, slang and jargon, social and regional variation, vocabulary changes in progress, the "national language'' debate. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
Varieties of Spanish
Professor/InstructorDunia Catalina Méndez Vallejo
Offered as an overview of sociolinguistic variation in the Spanish-speaking world, students will learn about social, political, and cultural aspects related to dialectal variation in Spanish and become acquainted with important linguistic features present in various dialects. Upon completion of the course, students become familiarized with particular features distinguishing one dialect from another, while gaining knowledge of the development of these differences. This course will greatly enrich a student's view of Spanish, either as a native/heritage speaker or Spanish learner, and allows for the development of analytical skills.
Human Language: A User's Guide
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.
Language, Mind, and Brain
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.
Phonetics and Phonology
This course is an introduction to the science of speech sounds (phonetics) and sound systems (phonology). Students will 1) learn how sounds from a wide variety of languages are produced, and learn to produce and transcribe them; 2) understand and analyze the acoustic properties of speech sounds using (free) software; 3) understand the unconscious knowledge speakers have of the rules and constraints that govern their native language's sound system; 4) extract phonological generalizations from phonetic data from various languages; 5) learn about the similarities and differences between the sound systems of the world's languages.
Professor/InstructorByron T. Ahn
Syntax is the aspect of human language involved in building phrases out of words. How do words combine - like beads on a string? Are words the smallest building blocks of phrases? How can we make predictions about what is possible and impossible in these structures? This course aims to answer these questions while focusing on the methods linguists use to analyze natural language expressions. Explorations of universal properties of language structures, as well as the ways in which those structures can vary. Strong emphasis on building and testing hypotheses on the basis of both language data and foundational principles of the field.
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.
The Structure and Meaning of Words
This course delves into the internal composition of words (morphology) across languages. What is a word? What can be inside of a word? Do all languages build words in the same way(s), with the same sorts of ingredients? How similar is word-building to sentence-building? We will engage deeply with both the empirical and theoretical side of this topic, exploring not just morphology, but also its interactions with phonology (sound systems) and syntax (sentence structure). This class is highly interactive and hands-on. Students will develop tools of analysis and argumentation that are applicable in all areas of linguistics and beyond.
Professor/InstructorChristiane Dorothea Fellbaum
This course covers the linguistic, psycholinguistic, neurolinguistic, and sociolinguistic aspects of bilingualism. We examine 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. We consider 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.
Psychology of Language
Professor/InstructorAdele E. Goldberg
The cognitive processes underlying the use and understanding of language, and in learning to speak. Topics include speech production and perception, grammar and meaning, knowledge and words, and pragmatic aspects of language. Two lectures, one preceptorial.
Linguistics and Language Acquisition
Professor/InstructorAdele E. Goldberg
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.
Linguistic Universals and Language Diversity
This course is a hands-on exploration of language typology. Each student will work with a different endangered language to help us, as a class, answer typological questions across various domains of language (sounds, words, sentences, etc.). Along what lines do languages vary? How much can languages differ from each other? Are any linguistic properties shared across all human languages, and if so, how do we explain them? How do signed languages fit into this picture, and what's all that buzz about Pirahã? Through answering these questions, we will build up and engage with various models and theories of language variation.
Professor/InstructorByron T. Ahn
This course develops students' syntactic reasoning abilities beyond the introductory level, providing new tools for analyzing the syntactic components of linguistics phenomena. We read and discuss both classic and contemporary syntactic research on a variety of topics, including syntactic issues in word order, pronunciation, and interpretation. Students apply these tools to a broad set of linguistic data, from a variety of languages, both in and out of the classroom. The course culminates in each student writing a "squib", in which they test multiple hypotheses on a syntactic phenomenon of their choice.
Philosophy of Language
The course covers traditional philosophic issues concerning language, including meaning, reference, and analyticity. Particular attention is given to attempts to view these problems as amenable to solution by the methods of empirical linguistics.