LING-001 Introduction to Language
Fall for 2016-2017
Spring for 2016-2017
See Schedule of classes for Current Instructors

This course is designed to provide students with a general introduction to the scientific study of language. Our main goals include familiarizing you with linguistic terminology, teaching both the methods of linguistic analysis and how to apply them (to English and to other languages, including languages that you might know, and languages that you don’t know). We also discuss theories and research on how both first and other languages are learned by children and adults, and encourage students to think about the social implications of language use.

In the first part of the course students will learn about the physical and mental aspects of sounds, or speech production. We then discuss how knowledge about the sound patterns of language can be applied in context, by learning about accents, dialects, and other types of patterned variation in language. This can involve topics as varied as how English is spoken on the East and West coasts of the U.S., or in Britain vs. America, how ethnicity shapes and is shaped by language variation, gender-based patterns of variation, and stylistic variation, for example, what President Obama’s different speech styles reveals about the way he wants to be seen by different social groups.

After this discussion of sounds, we move on to an examination of the linguistic structure of words and sentences, building towards the ability to extract regularities from linguistic data in unfamiliar languages. We discuss how this can be applied by learning about how language is acquired and processed by children and adults. This can involve topics like age and individual differences in cognition, for example, in working memory, as well as the study of how sentences might be processed in the brain.

In the last part of the course we focus on understanding the ways people use and interpret language in different contexts. With understanding “meaning” as a foundation, we move on to exploring a variety of issues in language and culture, including language and humor and social rules of politeness.

If you are majoring or minoring in linguistics, this course will provide you with the background you need to succeed in other linguistics courses. If you are studying a foreign language, this course will provide you with additional tools to facilitate the learning process. Linguistics, which is the scientific study of language, interfaces with a wide variety of other fields (e.g., anthropology, sociology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, politics and the law, and public policy), so you should be able to make exciting connections whatever your background and interests. This course also fulfills the social science requirement for undergraduates.

Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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