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Engl 451

ENGL 451: Introduction to the Study of Language and Modern Grammar (Hasty)  ENGL 451 Syllabus

Linguistics CollageLanguage is fantastically complicated and interesting, full of rules and constraints as well as inherent and uncontrollable variation.  We learn our first language almost before we can walk, yet most of us are not able to articulate even one clear rule which actually pertains to how these words were put in this specific order to yield a sentence.  What “rules” you have been taught in grade school (i.e., lists of dos and don’ts) have little if anything to do with how actually speakers use Language in the real world.

The purpose of this course, then, is to provide you with an introduction to the nature and structure of human Language, as well as to provide you with some basic tools to scientifically study language: what we refer to as Linguistics.  Rather than looking at a single language (like English), we will study the uniquely human cognitive faculty of Language.

To do this we will seek answers to the following fundamental questions:

  • What is the nature of the cognitive system that we identify as Language?
  • How is this system used in the production and comprehension of speech?
  • How is this system represented in the brain?
  • What are the necessary components of Language?

To begin answering these questions we will look at Language through several levels of abstraction:

  • The production and perception of speech sounds
  • The formation of sounds into meaningful units
  • The arrangement of these meaning units into sentences
  • The systematic interpretation and processing of these sentences

In addition to these core areas, we will also study how Language intersects with other human factors like social structures (e.g., class, age, gender, ethnicity, region) and how these contribute to language variation and change.

To foster and assess these goals, we will complete a series of problem sets and exams which will ask you to apply linguistic analysis to real world data from a variety of languages.