Class schedule

This is the (tentative) class-by-class schedule that I envisage for this course. As usual, there will be changes here and there as the term unfolds, but it should give you a clear idea on what we intend to cover over the semester. This is also where many of the course materials will be linked (readings, lecture slides, announcements, etc.). It’s a convenient way of grouping (almost) everything in one table on a single page. So, do check here often.

Note: Whenever ‘Chapter X’ is used in the syllabus table, it refers to a chapter from the main textbook, An Introduction to Language, unless otherwise specified.

Date Topics Readings and relevant links Assignments, events & relevant links
Sept 16


Some linguistic puzzles

What is linguistics about?

Lecture slides Part I (which contain the syllabus)

Lecture slides Part II

Sept 21

The prescriptivism vs. descriptivism debate

What is language?

Lecture Slides

– Chapter 1, pp. 1-21 Questionnaire: Please fill in the questionnaire and send it me to via e-mail, preferably before Wednesday’s class.
Sept 23

“Design features”: Human language vs. animal communication systems

Grammar as a mental object

Main ideas of first language acquisition

Lecture slides

– Finish reading Chapter 1, pp. 1-21, if you haven’t already

– Read Chapter 9, pp. 394–397 and pp. 422-425 (don’t worry if you encounter any unfamiliar terms; simply focus on the main ideas)

HW1 assigned
Sept 28

The biological basis of language

Language and the brain

Main questions of linguistic theory

Main subfields of linguistics

Lecture slides

– Read this article for class discussion.

– Read Chapter 10, pp. 461-482 on ‘Brain and Language’

Read Nunberg and Wasow’s overview of the field of linguistics

Sept 30

Introducing Morphology: Morphemes

Lecture slides

Chapter 2 pp. 33-49  HW1 due at 8pm by e-mail
Oct 5

Morphology cont.:  Morphological structure and analysis

Lecture slides

Read this article and watch this video for class discussion.

Read Chapter 2, pp. 49-66

Also, take a look at the exercises on Zulu (pp. 67-68), Swedish (pp. 68), Cebuano (p. 69), and Turkish (p. 73).

Oct 7

Processes of word formation

Morphological typology

Lecture slides

Finish chapter 2 if you haven’t already — Also, Read this chapter from the Language Files  HW2 assigned
Oct 12

Finishing up morphology

Intro to syntax

Lecture slides

Chapter 3, pp. 76-87
Oct 14

Intro. to Syntax: Constituency

Phrase structure grammar

Lecture slides

Continue to read Chapter 3 through pp. 87- 108  HW2 due
Thu Oct 15 Episode 1 of Language Matters: ‘How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk’ (at 4:30-5:30 in Axinn 219)
Oct 19

Syntax cont.: Transformational rules

Lecture slides

Read this article on forensic linguistics

Chapter 3 cont., pp. 109-129

Oct 21

Syntax cont.: Universals and variation

Lecture slides

Finish reading Chapter 3 if you haven’t already HW3 assigned
Oct 23-25 Midterm Recess Have fun!  
Oct 26

Articulatory phonetics: Consonants

Lecture slides

Read this article on ‘How many languages are there in the world?’

Chapter 5, pp. 189-208

Oct 28

Consonants and Vowels

Phonetic transcription

Lecture slides

Finish reading Chapter 5. HW3 due
Thu Oct 29 Episode 2 of Language Matters: Internet language and textspeak (4:30-5:30 in Axinn 219)
Nov 2



Lecture slides

Read this article on California accent.

Also read this article on ‘What’s wrong with America’s ugliest accent tournament’

Read the section on prosodic features in Chapter 6, pp. 252-255.

Nov 4

Syllable structure


Lecture slides

Midterm exam assigned
Nov 9

Phonology: Phonemes and allophones

Phonology problems and Phonological rules

Lecture slides

Chapter 6, pp. 224-235, and the section on the rules of phonology (pp. 241-250) and the section on phonological analysis on pp. 260-264.
Nov 11

Discussion of first language acquisition

Lecture slides

Read this article on children’s “mistakes”

Read this article on words for “father” and “mother” in human languages

Read Chapter 9, pp. 394-424.

 A talk on translation by Ellen Elias-Bursać: Translating Evidence and Interpreting Testimony at a War Crimes Tribunal: Working in a Tug-of-War (at 7:30pm in RAJ conference room)
Thu Nov 12 **Midterm due on Thursday Nov 12 by 8pm via e-mail, or in my office as hard copy by 5pm**
Nov 16

Sociolinguistics: Language and society — Regional dialects of American English — Language attitudes

Lecture slides

Read Chapter 7, pp. 279-287

250-word paper proposal due

HW4 assigned 

Nov 18

Language and ethnicity (the case of African American English): The Ebonics debate

Lecture slides

Chapter 7, pp. 287-301

Readings on the ‘Ebonics debate’:

‘Ebonics’ Resolution

A negative reaction

The Linguistic Society of America resolution

More views 1

More views 2

Thu Nov 19 Episode 3 of Language Matters: Screening of The Linguists (@ 4:30-5:30pm in Axinn 219)
Nov 23

Language and gender

Lecture slides

Read these extracts from Deborah Cameron’s book The Myth of Mars and Venus on language and gender:

Extract 1

Extract 2

Extract 3

Read the section on ‘Genderlects’ in Chapter 7, pp. 297-301.

HW4 due
Nov 24-29 Thanksgiving Break Enjoy the holiday!
Nov 30

Language change:  Lexical, semantic, morphological, syntactic, and phonological change

Lecture slides

 Chapter 8, pp. 337-361  HW5 assigned
Dec 2

Historical linguistics: reconstruction and the comparative method

Lecture slides

Read the following articles on the debate on the origin of Indo-European:

The Anatolian theory

The steppe theory

Article from the NYT on the issue

Finish reading Chapter 8, pp. 362-371 and pp. 374-381

Dec 7

Creating language out of thin air: Pidgins and Creoles

Lecture slides

Read the section in chapter 7 on Languages in contact, pp. 301-312

Read this article on Haitian Creole

And if you can, read this article on Hawaiian Pidgin English

 HW5 due
Dec 9

Language and thought revisited

Course response forms

Lecture slides

Chapter 1 of the textbook, pp. 21-25

Read Crystal’s discussion of “Language and thought”, pp. 14-15 in the Encyclopedia

Thu Dec 10 Episode 4 of Language Matters: Thesis presentation by Mark Balderston, an Independent Scholar in Linguistics (4:30-5:30pm)
Fri Dec 18 Final Paper due by 1pm via email


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