Introduction to the Theory of Language (Jumbo)

Semester: 

N/A

Offered: 

2017

Digital classroom
Course slides
The Hitchhikers Guide to Drawing Trees
Course syllabus
Course webpage (Sakai)

Course Learning Goals
By the end of this course, students will:
i. Gain technical mastery over the tools of linguistic analysis
ii. Gain understanding of linguistic theory as it applies in these areas
iii. Learn how to investigate linguistic data and analyze it
iv. Develop strong problem-solving skills in linguistics.

Department Learning Goals

Students will reason about language; identify how incorrect or irrational assumptions and prejudices distort understanding of language; demonstrate knowledge about language in the world including a sophisticated understanding of linguistic and cultural variation, and evaluate popular views on the nature of human languages and their speakers.

Majors and minors will also demonstrate technical mastery over the tools of linguistic analysis in syntax, phonology and semantics and apply linguistic theory in these areas.  They will investigate linguistic data and analyze it; demonstrate strong problem-solving skills; extend their understanding of theoretical linguistics into other domains of linguistic research; apply the techniques of linguistics that they have learned in the core courses to new topics; and access current research in the field.  Some students will investigate language in a broader context, where it can be systematically and rationally explored using their sophisticated understanding how language works.

Description:

The basic objectives of this course are:

(A) to familiarize students with the basic goals and assumptions of Generative Grammar,

(B) to train students in the rudiments of linguistic analysis and linguistic theorizing and argumentation, and

(C) to familiarize students with the major linguistic structures of English and their relevance to linguistic theory.

The central goal of Generative Grammar is to understand what a person knows when he or she knows a language, and to understand how it is that people acquire this knowledge. Most of this "knowledge" is actually unconscious, that is to say, native speakers of English "know" what sounds to them like a perfectly normal English sentence, but when native speakers hear a sentence that sounds "ungrammatical" to them, they rarely can say exactly why. In fact the greatest portion of our linguistic knowledge has never been explicitly taught to us, rather we have acquired it because we have human brains, and human brains are specially equipped to learn certain kinds of languages. Linguistics, from this perspective, is a "cognitive" science, like much of psychology, dedicated to understanding how our brains work in a particularly human way.

Most natural languages are spoken, so we will start with a discussion of how speech sounds are produced (a bit of phonetics). It turns out that not all audibly distinct sounds are consciously distinguished—adult language users are only aware of those differences in sound that serve to contrast some units of meaning in their language. This will be our second topic (a bit of phonology). Next, we will discuss how units of meaning are combined into words and sentences (a bit of morphology and syntax, respectively); and finally, how multi-sententential discourse may communicate various kinds of information (a bit of semantics and pragmatics).

Throughout, we will maintain a cross-linguistic perspective, focusing on patterns that are common to all human languages, however different they may be otherwise. You will not be expected to learn any other language, but you will be expected to learn basic linguistic analysis that these languages will serve to illustrate

This course is likely to be of interest to students in computer science, anthropology, language studies, philosophy and psychology, as well as students in linguistics.

Required Reading

"An Introduction to Language"
Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman, Nina Hyams
Publication: January 1, 2013 Edition: 10e
ISBN-10: 1133310680
ISBN-13: 978-1133310686
Cengage Learning
624 pages

Class Schedule

Date

Topic

Reading

Assign

Due

9/3 W

What is Language

VF 1-33, Ch1986

 

 

9/5 F

What is Language

 

 

 

9/8-9

Recitation: Organization/WiL

 

 

 

9/10 W

Recap

 

 

 

9/12 F

Morphology

VF 33-76

PS 1

 

9/15-16

Recitation: WiL/Morphology

 

 

 

9/17 W

Morphology

 

 

 

9/19 F

Recap

 

 

 

9/22-23

Recitation: Morphology

 

 

 

9/24 W

Syntax

VF 76-139

 

 

9/26 F

Syntax

 

PS2

PS1

9/29-30

Recitation: Syntax

 

 

 

10/01W

Syntax

 

 

 

10/03 F

Syntax

 

 

 

10/06-07

Recitation: Syntax/Meaning

 

 

 

10/08 W

Syntax review

 

PS3

 

10/10 F

Meaning

VF 139-189

 

PS2

10/13-14

Recitation Meaning

 

 

 

10/15 W

Meaning

 

 

 

10/17 F

Review

 

Midterm

PS3

10/20-21

Recitation: Review

 

 

 

10/22 W

Phonetics

VF 189-224

PS4

 

10/24 F

Phonetics

 

 

Midterm

10/27-28

Recitation: Phonetics

 

 

 

10/29 W

Phonology

VF 224-279

PS5

 

10/31 F

Phonology

 

 

PS4

11/03-04

Recitation: Phonology

 

 

 

11/05 W

Recap

 

 

 

11/07 F

Language Acquisition

VF 394 -444

 

 

11/10-11

Recitation: Phonetics/Phonology

 

 

 

11/12 W

Language Acquisition

 

PS6

 

11/14 F

Recap

 

 

PS5

11/17-18

Recitation: Language Acquisition

 

 

 

11/19 W

Language Processing

VF 444-495

 

 

11/21 F

Language Processing

 

 

 

11/24-25

No recitation

 

 

 

11/26 F

Computer Processing

VF 495-527

 

 

12/01-02

Recitation Processing

 

 

 

12/03 W

Recap

 

 

 

12/05 F

Review

 

 

PS6

12/08-09

Recitation Review

 

 

 

12/18

Exam

 

 

 

Related Materials