Introduction to Linguistics 1 and 2

Pat Shaw

Introduction to Linguistics 1

How can the study of Linguistics help me learn more about my own language? Linguistics offers a framework of concepts and analytical tools to help understand the way different languages are organized. Within every component of a language - ranging from what sounds are used to how words, phrases, and sentences are built up into conversations or stories or speeches - there are patterns. What Linguistics aims to do is discover just what those patterns are. What makes every language so unique and so special is how those patterns are structured and how they work together to become a vehicle for the particular world view of the cultural identity of the people who speak that language.

“Language” is a universal and uniquely human capability, and all human languages share certain properties. Even though languages may ‘sound’ really different, some aspects are essentially similar! For language learning and teaching, it’s helpful to discover common properties. At the same time, it’s also valuable to learn about the ways in which languages may differ, as this can contribute to understanding what aspects of language learning are more challenging, and why.

Week 1 of this course provides a foundation in core concepts of language structure, focusing on the properties of sounds (phonetics) and phonological systems, as well as on processes for building words (morphology) and sentences (syntax).

Introduction to Linguistics 2

Prerequisite: Introduction to Linguistics 1 or an understanding of the concepts covered in Introduction to Linguistics 1.

Week 2 further explores relationships between morphological and syntactic systems, as well as their interface with meaning (semantics), and aspects of language use (songs, stories, baby talk, etc.)

Other questions to be discussed include: What is a “polysynthetic” language? What does it mean for different languages to be related to each other, whereas other languages are “genetically distinct”? What is a “dialect”? What kinds of changes in a language can occur over time?

Class participants will build documentation and analytical skills through hands-on experience with data from a diversity of endangered languages around the world. Participants are particularly encouraged to contribute resources and questions from languages they want to learn more about.