Introduction to Linguistics

Niveau BA3

EC 6

Petra Bos (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

eind oktober 2024 – januari 2025

Language plays an extremely important role in our daily life. To be able to observe and analyze linguistic features or to be able to teach a language, we need to have quite some knowledge of language systems; in other words, of the phenomenon ‘language’. Even if you are primarily interested in studying or teaching one specific language, it is still important to understand the foundations of linguistics. Because in a sense, all languages are variations on a single theme: if you look at them closely, they look more alike than at first sight. The fact that all linguists use the same terminology to describe many different languages already proves that languages somehow share a common basis.

Course Objectives
The goal of this course is to provide students with elementary knowledge of formal linguistics and of language use and to improve their knowledge about language (language awareness). At the end of this course, students will be able to correctly use general linguistic terminology and they will be familiar with the basics of the following linguistic domains: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, language acquisition and language disorders. They will also be aware of the role that linguistics plays in society, such as in speech/ language therapy and in educational environments. Students will be able to perform basic linguistic analyses on small datasets from English, but also from languages they most probably do not speak.

Contents of the course
In this course, we will study the basics of linguistics and applied linguistics. We start out with studying the language acquisition processes young children go through. We will focus on the developmental processes in sound, word and sentence acquisition. We will also pay some attention to language disorders, such as developmental disorders, dyslexia and aphasia. Taking language acquisition as a starting point, we will then study the systems for sound production, word formation and sentence construction as universal properties of languages. In our phonetics and phonology classes we will study how sounds are pronounced and perceived and how meaning is mapped onto sounds in different languages. We then move on to how words and sentences are formed in a number of languages and how this helps us categorize languages into families (topics: morphology and syntax). In these first weeks we will study many language examples from English but also from typologically completely different languages such as Austronesian languages and Amazonian languages. Halfway the course, we will focus less on the language system itself and more on language use. We will study semantics (the mapping of meaning onto words or clauses) and pragmatics (the unwritten rules of language use) and the application of all these domains in daily life. Special attention will be paid to (foreign) language teaching. At the end of the course, you will have become acquainted with an enormous number of fascinating features of language.

Lectures and seminars. In the lectures, the topics of that week will be introduced. Students will then individually work on a number of linguistic exercises (related to the topics of the week) before the start of the seminar. During the seminars, the outcomes of these exercises will be discussed. Solid preparation and active participation by the students is essential in these seminars.

Written exam (50 multiple choice questions). Students will be tested on their knowledge of and insight in the field of linguistics. Analyses of small datasets will also be part of this multiple-choice exam.

This will be our handbook in this course:
Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Language and Linguistics.
13th edition. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.