Pomona College (2014-2016)

What exactly is language? What do you actually know when you know a language? These questions are at the heart of linguistics, the scientific study of language. Topics covered in this course include: how sounds are produced and how they combine; how words are constructed from their component parts; how sentences are formed and how their meaning is understood; how languages are alike and how they differ; how languages change over time; and how language use reflects aspects of our identity.

How do animals communicate with other members of their species? Why don’t dogs, or even chimpanzees, learn to talk? Investigating these questions will take us on a tour of the myriad complex and amazing communication systems and cognitive abilities found in the animal kingdom, from the bee waggle dance to humpback whale song. It will also shed light on what makes human language unique and how it may have evolved.

The purpose of this course is to explore the properties of the human language sound system and its interfaces with phonetics, morphology, and syntax. Students will be familiarized with a number of different phonological frameworks and encouraged to discuss the methods by which competing theories may be evaluated.  By the end of this course, students should achieve a basic understanding of phonological theory and the ability to analyze a set of phonological data using phonemic analysis.

University of Maryland (2010-2011)

The purpose of this course is to expand on LING 321 by exploring the properties of the human language sound system and its interfaces with phonetics, morphology, and syntax. Students will be familiarized with a number of different phonological frameworks and encouraged to discuss the methods by which competing theories may be evaluated.

Armed with a basic understanding of both syntax and phonology, students are prepared to consider one of the big questions in linguistic theory: what is the architecture of grammar as a whole and what demands do neighboring cognitive modules place on it? In this course, we explore the division of labor between syntax, morphology, the lexicon, and phonology, developing a theory of interaction between these components. Students will become familiar with Distributed Morphology (the currently dominant framework of word formation), while developing analytical skills by reading primary-source literature in a guided setting with an eye toward evaluating competing theories.

Harvard University (2008-2009)

What does it mean to know a language: ability to understand it, say something in it, or have intuitions about what is right or wrong in it? Where do these skills come from? What do natural languages tell us about the human ability for speaking and thinking? To figure out how language works, does one need to study many languages or just one or two? This course addresses these questions by providing the students with an introduction to the study of language, structural properties of languages, the relationship between language and the brain, and the uniqueness of language to humans.

This course is intended provide an overview of important, ongoing debates in linguistics and cognitive science more broadly—all of which remain areas of active investigation and spirited controversy. A subsidiary goal of the tutorial is to guide students through what may be their first experience reading primary-source linguistic literature. Additionally, a major aim is to help students integrate their knowledge of the various subfields of linguistics (and/or provide a matrix for future exposure to these fields). To this end, we will focus on themes that cross-cut disciplinary boundaries and on ways in which different fields both within and outside linguistics have influenced each other.

The purpose of this tutorial is to provide an introduction to the philosophers, grammarians, and scientists who paved the way for the past half-century of advancement in linguistics. I hope this will give you a sense of historical perspective, grounding the knowledge you gain from other departmental courses, and provide an avenue for those students pursuing a joint concentration, minor, or related field to explore how their areas of linguistic and non-linguistic interest relate to each other.

The class is meant to be an introduction to modern cognitive science, with special emphasis on language and how it informs the structure and function of the human mind and brain. The class will try to answer the following questions:

  • What does it mean to say that linguistics is part of the cognitive sciences? What do we mean by cognitive sciences?
  • How do the core properties of language compare with the core properties of other human cognitive abilities such as vision, music, mathematics?
  • What is the relationship between language and thought?

The class is also meant to be an exploration of the biology of language (“biolinguistics”). Specifically, we will discuss current research into the development of language which tries to make sense of the underlying universality of our language faculty as well as the diversity found in individual languages. Accordingly, the class will be structured around the following guiding questions:

  • What is knowledge of language?
  • How is that knowledge acquired?
  • How is that knowledge put to use?
  • How is that knowledge implemented in the brain?
  • How did that knowledge emerge in the species?