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Computational Linguistics Program

Linguistics 101

Introduction to Linguistics Syllabus

    Course Description




    This course will serve as an introduction to linguistics, the science of language. Linguistics is classified as a Social Science because the knowledge and use of language is an essential component in our functioning as social beings.

    This course is one of nine courses that you will take in General Education Foundations. Foundations courses cultivate skills in reading, writing, research, communication, computation, information literacy, and use of technology. They furthermore introduce you to basic concepts, theories and approaches in a variety of disciplines in order to provide the intellectual breadth necessary to help you integrate the more specialized knowledge gathered in your major area of study into a broader world picture.

    This course is one of two Foundations courses that you will take in the area of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Upon completing this area of Foundations, you will be able to: 1) explore and recognize basic terms, concepts, and domains of the social and behavioral sciences; 2) comprehend diverse theories and methods of the social and behavioral sciences; 3) identify human behavioral patterns across space and time and discuss their interrelatedness and distinctiveness; 4) enhance your under-standing of the social world through the application of conceptual frameworks from the social and behavioral sciences to first-hand engagement with contemporary issues.

    Linguists study the patterns of language which carry meaning and articulate social and linguistic identity. Though the details of the patterning vary from language to language and culture to culture, the kinds of patterning are constant. All languages have systems of sounds, units of meaning called words, and larger units called phrases and sentences. All languages have ways of signaling and acknowledging differences of social status and group, and all languages fall into one of a small number of types, which characterize how the different levels of patterning come together, In this course you will learn how linguists analyze language patterns and what kinds of evidence and arguments they use to support those analyses, and you will have the opportunity to explore and defend linguistic analyses of your own.


    Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction. O'Grady William, et al.


    Week by week readings and assignments.


    Readings, discussion, assignments, midterm, final.

    Come to class prepared. Read the assigned reading. Be prepared to discuss it. One of our class activities will be discussions on assigned questions related to your readings and lecture materials. Your task will be to prepare responses on these questions.


    attendance 10 %
    discussion 10 %
    assignments 35 %
    midterm 20 %
    final. 25 %


    Complete your homework assignments before class. Not only is homework worth 30% of your grade, but homework problems will resemble problems on your midterm and final.

    Week by week

    Week One Myths about language
    Week Two Animal Communication I: Alex the parrot and related wonders
    Week Three Morphology: what words are made of; word make-up in different languages
    Week Four Language and the brain: the grammar box, the meaning box
    Week Five Phonetics: The sounds of language
    Week Six Writing systems
    Week Seven Review and midterm
    Week Eight Phonology: The function of sounds in language
    Week Nine American dialects
    Week Ten Language families; Language variety; classifying languages
    Week Eleven Languages of North America
    Week Twelve Syntax
    Week Thirteen Language Acquisition
    Week Fourteen Other language systems: Animal Communication II
    Week Fifteen Review


    Brain and language, language and thought, language and evolution. Additionally we will learn the basic linguistic modes and levels: speech, writing, words, and syntax.

    Some terminology you will know by the end of the course: phonetics, phonology, phoneme, morphology, morpheme, syntax, semantics, analytic, agglutinative, polysynthetic, case, free-word order language, deep-structure, language family. Athapaskan, Iroquoian, Hokan, Panutian.


    Upon completion of the course, students will:

    1. Understand what linguistic levels like phonology, morphology, and syntax are and some of the great variety they show from language to language.
    2. Be able to identify the type of languages worldwide from a few basic facts and examples.
    3. Know some of the major language families of the world and some of the great migrations that have scattered language families over wide geographic areas.
    4. Be able to construct arguments for linguistic analyses, using criteria like economy and plausibility.

    TuTh 1230-145 Room: AH 4131

    Office Hours

    Tu Th 10:00-12:00


    Mailing address:
    Department of Linguistics and Oriental Languages
    San Diego State University
    5500 Campanile Drive
    San Diego, CA 92182-7727
    Telephone: (619) 594-0252
    Office location: BAM, room 321