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Exploring Linguistics

Session B: July 27 – August 6, 2020
1:30 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Helen Jeoung

In this introductory course in linguistics, we apply investigative tools to the study of human language. We will explore different types of language use, including standard vs. non-standard language, dialects, political speeches, languages from around the world, digital communication and social media. Students will work in groups to research an aspect of language that interests them, culminating in a final project. Knowledge of foreign languages is not required. 

Learning Outcomes

  • To gain an introduction to the field of linguistics and its potential applications in various careers or industries  
  • To apply the scientific method to the study of language and its uses in the contemporary world
  • To develop observational, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • To broaden understanding about linguistic differences and ways of thinking about language and culture

Course Topics

Each class begins with a brief lecture on a foundational linguistic concept, followed by a hands-on module in which students work on a research question or solve problem sets together. 

Topic 1. Busting myths and stereotypes about language 

Topic 2. Puzzling patterns: Morphology across the world’s languages  

Topic 3. Accents, dialects, and the fuzzy boundaries of language 

Topic 4. I can’t get no satisfaction: Things we’re not supposed to say 

Topic 5. Political rhetoric: Analyzing patterns in political speeches 

Topic 6. Texts, posts, tweets and slang in social media: Language change and evolution 

Topic 7. Siri, Alexa and Google assistant: AI and language technology ;

Research Project. Students will choose one of the course topics for a final project, and work in small groups to research and analyze linguistic data related to the topic. Examples of final projects: the design and administration of an online or in-person survey; analysis of data collected from on-campus “fieldwork”; plotting maps or graphs from quantitative language data; a comparative study of two political speeches. Research projects culminate in a group presentation on the last day of class.