Courses in Linguistics (Division 423)

112. Languages of the World. (3). (SS).

This course is intended for those who are curious about human language but who have not had courses or formal training in linguistics. We will examine selected languages from various parts of the world to see what they can tell us about human languages in general: How are they alike and how do they differ? How do they change? How do they help structure the worlds and societies of their speakers? At the same time students will gain some insight into how linguists proceed in their task of analysis and explanation. They will also learn how to confront texts in languages they do not know. There are weekly problem sets, readings, and two hour exams. No prerequisites. (001-Myhill; 002-Staff)

114. A World of Words. (3). (HU).

The English language is said to have almost a quarter-million words; words for everything from aardvarks to zygotes. There are a lot of questions to ask about words: Do we really have all the words we need? How do we know what they mean? Why is English spelling so weird (or is it weird)? Why are some words considered BAD and others GOOD? Where do words come from, anyway? In this course we will study and attempt to answer these and other questions about the English language and its vocabulary. Topics covered include: morphology and phonetics (the internal structure of words); etymology (word history); Indo-European linguistics (how English is related to other languages); lexical semantics (how words mean); and social and cultural implications of our vocabulary and its use. In the process we can expect: (1) some vocabulary development, with particular attention to Greek and Latin roots in common use in English; (2) an increased sensitivity to words of all sorts and to their uses and probable meanings; (3) an improved understanding of how words are used to name and describe various concepts and things and how they can be misused as well; (4) a novel and interesting viewpoint on the position of our language and culture in world history and geography, as a result not of official political or institutional events, but of its continuing evolution. Assignments include readings, homework problems, participation both in class and in a computer conference, and (take home) exams, midterm and final. [Cost:2] [WL:2] (Lawler)

210. Introduction to Linguistics. (3). (SS).

Nothing is more distinctly human than our ability to talk, to use language. Because of that, we expect that the study of language can provide us insight into the things that combine to make "human nature" Since language is a product of what we call "mind," "culture," and "society," it provides us with concrete data through which we can study those very abstract things. This course is an introduction to the methods which linguists have developed in the process of analyzing and describing human languages. Our study will draw on examples from a large number of the languages of the world (including observations of the language habits of U of M students and faculty). We will look at the sounds of language, how they are produced, and how they are patterned into words. We will study the diverse ways in which individual languages approach the processes of word and sentence formation, while we try to decide if there are processes which are universal to all human languages. In spite of this, we will focus our attention on the methods of inquiry: How does a linguist decide what ought to be studied in a given language? How do we go about collecting data? When do we know we have enough? What techniques do we have for making sense of our data? What kinds of conclusions are we led to, what do we do if our methods lead us to different accounts of the same phenomenon? In other words, our focus will be on the processes of analysis and the methods of critical thinking as they apply to the study of language. Daily exercises will afford opportunities to collect data, define problems and propose tentative solutions. Class lecture/discussions and longer bi-weekly assignments will present methods of argumentation and develop problem solving skills. There will be a midterm and a final exam. (The only prerequisites are good will and enthusiasm). (Beddor)

211. Introduction to Language. (3). (SS).

From time immemorial human beings have been curious about language: about its structure, its diversity, its use, and its effects on others. In this course, we will explore the human capacity for language, beginning with the ways language differs from animal communication, how children acquire language and the role of the brain in speech. We will then review major aspects of language structure (sounds, words, sentences) and apply them to discussions of the origin of language, the history of the English language, as well as to discussions of current dialects of English such as Black English. Next we will consider social attitudes toward language (including "low prestige" dialects and sign language) and how sexism and racism are reflected in language. The course concludes with an examination of some of the world's writing systems and nonverbal communication ("body language"). Course work includes eight weekly homework assignments and one midterm exam. The final is optional. In addition, films will periodically be shown on Thursday evenings (attendance optional). Cost:2 WL:3 (Cooper)

305/Communication 305. Political and Advertising Discourse. Junior standing. (3). (Excl).

Magazine advertisements, political communications, and sermons are one-sided and persuasive. They are one-sided in sharply distinguishing a speaker/producer and an audience: yet they often work best by creating the appearance of dialogue. They are persuasive in attempting to influence the audience's behavior; but while some aim squarely at "closing," others merely attempt to induce an initial predisposition. Furthermore, messages directed to large audiences are most effective when they contain an element of ambiguity, allowing individuals to interpret them and respond to them in different ways. We will start by studying how ads are experienced by readers flipping through magazines; how the eye "enters" and explores, the roles of color and composition, the rhetoric of humor, and the interaction of text ("copy") and picture. We then discuss sermons and speeches, showing how the text unfolds and how speaker-audience roles are manipulated directly by means of response elicitation ("amen!") but also symbolically by means of pronouns, quotations, questions, and poetic devices. Finally, we study debates as a hybrid genre (half oratory, half conversation). Several short written assignments will involve close analysis of actual ads, and of transcriptions and tapes of speeches, sermons, and debates. Cost:2 WL:3 (Heath)

315. Introduction to Sentence Analysis. (3). (Excl).

One of the basic things speakers of English know is in what order to put the words of a sentence. Generally we put the subject before the verb and the direct object after the verb. Speakers of the Brazilian language Hixkaryana also put words in a particular order, although this order is the mirror image of English's. Of course this basic level does not exhaust the expressive power of either English or Hixkaryana. The Hixkaryana sentence "Eko wehxakona huhyaye romryen haxa, amryekhen komo rma; koseryehyakona, romryena." may be translated as "In my boyhood, before I was one of the hunters, I used to live there, downriver; and I used to be afraid" but its form is strikingly different from English: literally "there I was downriver, my boyhood yet, not a hunter, not one of the hunters, I was afraid, my boyhood." Initially, English and Hixkaryana look like opposites, but they actually demonstrate both the rich differences and common features of human language. For example, in English we say "John likes himself" but we don't often say "John convinced Sally to marry himself"; Hixkaryana works the same way. So do German, Japanese, Russian and Navajo. Are such differences and similarities between English and Hixkaryana (or Navajo) accidental, or are there ways in which all languages are similar? In this course we will explore variety and regularity in the ways languages organize words into phrases and sentences. We will consider approaches to the study of the sentence as a unit of human language and we will attempt to formulate a theory of how languages may differ, what ways languages must be the same, and (an obviously related question) how humans go about the difficult task of learning a language. The requirements will include regular, short written assignments, and participants will submit a short paper analyzing an unfamiliar language. [Cost:1] [WL:4] (Alexander)

318. Types of Languages. One course in linguistics. (3). (Excl).

Human languages, especially those of unfamiliar cultures, appear to be very different on the surface. But closer examination reveals that languages differ in systematic ways, so that they can be divided into a relatively small number of basic types. In this course, you will discover and learn about some of these basic patterns. We will then explore the reasons why these patterns exist, seeking explanations in the communicative function of language, and the evolution of languages. The course will introduce students to basic grammatical structure and function by (1) having them investigate unfamiliar languages through published descriptive grammars and (2) relating this direct experience to the principal findings of contemporary linguistic researchers. Coursework will consist of a midterm, a final, and a series of regular assignments requiring students to consult a grammar (or grammars) to gather data on specific linguistic features. Through these assignments students can expect to develop some familiarity with a number of non- Western languages during the course. Prerequisite: a course in linguistics. (Hook)

319(316). Discourse in the Academic Disciplines. (3). (HU).

The aims of this course are: (1) to provide a structured opportunity for participants to reflect upon similarities and differences among the disciplinary and departmental cultures they have experienced; (2) to relate those experiences to the work of scholars who have examined such cultures from differing perspectives; (3) to investigate, via various techniques of discourse analysis, primary data research and citational practices, etc.); and (4) to discuss findings in a range of written and spoken formats. Thus the course hopes to demonstrate the value of linguistics as an interdisciplinary enquiry and of future discourse communities. There are no prerequisites, and those from other concentrations are especially welcome. (Olsen)

411. Introduction to Linguistics. Not open to students with credit for Ling. 211. (3). (SS).

This course is an introduction to the objectives and methods of modern linguistics. We will be especially concerned with phonetics and phonology (the nature and organization of the sounds of language) and with morphology and syntax (the formation of words and the organization of words into larger phrases and sentences). We will consider how all these aspects of language vary from one dialect or language to another, from one social group to another, and from one situation to another, and we will ask how and why they change through time. Some attention will also be given to semantics and pragmatics (how languages convey meanings, and how meanings interact with situations) and language acquisition. Students will be required to submit short problems from time to time, but grades will be based upon two hour exams and a final. (Alexander)

412. Phonetics. (3). (Excl).

This is an introduction to phonetics (the study of the nature of speech sounds). The course will focus on (1) the description of speech sounds in terms of their articulatory, acoustic and perceptual characteristics and (2) the production and translation of sounds that occur in languages of the world. Class meetings will comprise lectures on articulation, acoustics or perception. Weekly labs will include drills in producing and transcribing particular classes of speech sounds and computer analysis of speech. Course grades will be based on small projects, a midterm and a final exam (and a language project for graduate students). No prerequisites, but an introductory linguistics course is strongly recommended. (Beddor)

414. Semantics and Pragmatics. Linguistics 401. (3). (Excl).

What is meaning? How do we understand the meaning of words and sentences when they are used? We will begin by looking at a logal language for describing the meanings of sentences, and the theory of meaning that it presupposes. Much of the meaning we infer from utterances comes not from what we say but from context; this is the domain of pragmatics. We will then examine the different ways that people use (and abuse) language to convey meaning via context. Meaning is in the mind of the beholder: meaning is the product of human conceptualization. The second half of the course will explore how we construct meaning through figurative language and how even fundamental grammatical categories impose a conceptualization of experience onto our utterances. Prerequisite: an introductory linguistics or philosophy of language course or permission of the instructor. This course satisfied the undergraduate semantics concentration requirement. (Croft)

417/Anthro. 476/German 417. Principles and Methods of Historical Linguistics. Ling. 411 or equivalent. (3). (Excl).

All human languages change with the passage of time. In this course we shall examine the ways in which languages change and how linguists study and analyze this universal phenomenon. Topics to be covered include (a) sound change, (b) morphological change, (c) syntactic change, (d) semantic change, (e) etymology, (f) comparative and internal reconstruction, (g) the study of language change in progress, and (h) typology and language change. Class sessions will consist of lectures and discussions of problem sets. In addition to the textbook. students will read key articles on historical linguistics. The final grade will be determined by a midterm exam, a final exam, and by homework assignments. Prerequisite: Linguistics 411 or equivalent, or permission of instructor. (Dworkin)

419. Discourse Analysis. Linguistics 401. (3). (Excl).

This course will study turn-taking and conversation structure, referent status (topic and focus), information status (given/new, foregrounding), cohesion and coherence in texts, and the role of belief systems (knowledge, and social status) in text construction. (Myhill)

492. Topics in Linguistics. (3). (Excl). May be elected for credit twice.

SECTION 001 INTRODUCTION TO COGNITIVE GRAMMAR. What goes on in your head when you talk, or listen to someone else talk? This course will present the grammar of English from a cognitive perspective, based on psychological models of the storage and processing of concepts in the mind. In this perspective, grammar is a cognitive system that evolved in response to two major adaptive pressures: (1) constraints imposed by the structure of the human mind and (2) the need to encode, transmit and decode meaning in words and sentences. Language is a symbolic system, and the structure of the symbol (i.e., the sentences) can be explained in large part as a reflection of how we conceptualize the world. Grammar appears to be a gigantic network of stored constructions in the mind, and the processes of expression and understanding are ones of categorizing concepts in the "right" place in the network. We will explore the cognitive grammar of English, with occasional comparisons to other languages. Prerequisite: an introductory linguistics course (e.g., Linguistics 210, 211, or 411) or permission of the instructor. [Cost:3, including recommended reading] [WL:2] (Croft)

541/CS 595/EECS 595. Natural Language Processing. Senior standing. (3). (Excl).

See Computer Science 595.


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