Linguistics

Linguistics is the study of the human language faculty, surely one of the most central components of human nature. We study language from a variety of perspectives, including the construction of illuminating descriptions of these extraordinarily complex systems, their acquisition by young children, their realization in the brain, how they change over time, among others.

We offer a major which emphasizes theoretical creativity and the ability to articulate insights in both written and oral presentation, preparing students to confidently engage complexity and to make sophisticated original contributions to intellectual inquiry more generally.

Requirements for the Linguistics Major

A total of 69 credits

  • Four core courses (24 credits)
    • LING 110 Introduction to Linguistics
    • LING 115 Introduction to the Theory of Syntax
    • LING 216 Generative Approaches to Syntax
    • LING 217 Phonetics and Phonology
  • Three 300-level courses (18 credits)
    • LING 315 Topics in Syntax (not offered in 2017-18)
    • LING 316 Topics in Morphology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • LING 317 Topics in Phonology (not offered in 2017-18)
    • LING 325 Syntax of an Unfamiliar Language
    • LING 340 Topics in Semantics
  • LING 399 and LING 400 (9 credits)
  • Three electives (18 credits)
    • At least two drawn from:
      • ASLN 111 Writing Systems (not offered in 2017-18)
      • ASLN 260 Historical Linguistics
      • CHIN 248 The Structure of Chinese in Translation (not offered in 2017-18)
      • LING 130 Sociolinguistics of Semitic Languages
      • LING 222 Case and Agreement (not offered in 2017-18)
      • LING 275 First Language Acquisition (not offered in 2017-18)
      • LING 280 Field Methods in Linguistics
      • LING 285 Japanese Linguistics in Kyoto Seminar: The Linguistics of the Japanese Writing System
      • LING 286 Japanese Linguistics in Kyoto Seminar: The Structure of Japanese
    • At most one drawn from:
      • CGSC 232 Cognitive Processes (not offered in 2017-18)
      • CS 202 Mathematics of Computer Science
      • CS 254 Computability and Complexity
      • CS 322 Natural Language Processing
      • ENGL 204 History of the English Language
      • PHIL 210 Logic
      • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language (not offered in 2017-18)
      • PHIL 225 Philosophy of Mind
      • PSYC 234 Psychology of Language (not offered in 2017-18)
      • PSYC 362 Psychology of Spoken Words (not offered in 2017-18)
      • PSYC 366 Cognitive Neuroscience (not offered in 2017-18)
      • PSYC 375 Language and Deception (not offered in 2017-18)

Linguistics Courses

LING 110 Introduction to Linguistics The capacity to acquire and use natural languages such as English is surely one of the more remarkable features of human nature. In this course, we explore several aspects of this ability. Topics include the sound systems of natural languages, the structure of words, principles that regulate word order, the course of language acquisition in children, and what these reveal about the nature of the mind. 6 credits; FSR; Winter, Spring; Morgan Rood, Cherlon L Ussery
LING 115 Introduction to the Theory of Syntax This course is organized to enable the student to actively participate in the construction of a rather elaborate theory of the nature of human cognitive capacity to acquire and use natural languages. In particular, we concentrate on one aspect of that capacity: the unconscious acquisition of a grammar that enables a speaker of a language to produce and recognize sentences that have not been previously encountered. In the first part of the course, we concentrate on gathering notation and terminology intended to allow an explicit and manageable description. In the second part, we depend on written and oral student contributions in a cooperative enterprise of theory construction. 6 credits; FSR; Fall, Winter, Spring; Morgan Rood, Cherlon L Ussery
LING 130 Sociolinguistics of Semitic Languages This course is an introduction to the sociolinguistics of Semitic languages, particularly how language and society interact with respect to identity, ethnicity, politics and religion. Topics will include the wide breadth of Arabic language varieties and dialects with focus on Arabic diglossia (use of both Standard and colloquial Arabic dependent on social context) and code-switching (alternating between Arabic varieties and/or other languages in conversation). Language ideologies, including the Arabic language and its relation to Arab nationalism, as well as the revitalization of Modern Hebrew and its role in the Zionist movement will also be explored. Finally, the official status of both majority and minority Semitic languages will be investigated through the lens of language policy, politics and power. 6 credits; SI, IS; Spring; Morgan Rood
LING 216 Generative Approaches to Syntax This course has two primary goals: to provide participants with a forum to continue to develop their analytical skills (i.e. to 'do syntax'), and to acquaint them with generative syntactic theory, especially the Principles and Parameters approach. Participants will sharpen their technological acumen, through weekly problem solving, and engage in independent thinking and analysis, by means of formally proposing novel syntactic analyses for linguistic phenomena. By the conclusion of the course, participants will be prepared to read and critically evaluate primary literature couched within this theoretical framework. Prerequisite: Linguistics 115. 6 credits; FSR; Winter; Cherlon L Ussery
LING 217 Phonetics and Phonology Although no two utterances are ever exactly the same, we humans don't function like tape recorders; we overlook distinctions to which mechanical recording devices are sensitive, and we "hear" contrasts which are objectively not there. What we (think we) hear is determined by the sound system of the language we speak. This course examines the sound systems of human languages, focusing on how speech sounds are produced and perceived, and how these units come to be organized into a systematic network in the minds of speakers of languages. Prerequisite: 100-level Linguistics course. 6 credits; FSR; Fall; Mike Flynn
LING 222 Case and Agreement The form words take is, in part, governed by complex systems called "case" and "agreement." In general, case refers to forms of nouns, and agreement refers to forms of verbs. We go beyond familiar case patterns in which subjects are Nominative and objects are Accusative and familiar agreement patterns in which verbs display the person, gender, and/or number of subjects. We discover that nouns can bear a variety of cases and that agreement comes in many forms. Using syntactic theory, we explore the interaction between how languages construct words and sentences. No familiarity with languages other than English is required. Prerequisite: 100-level linguistics course. 6 credits; FSR; Not offered 2017-18
LING 275 First Language Acquisition Humans are unique among animals in that we are able to attain native speaker competency in any language(s) we receive a sufficient amount of exposure to during our development. The path of acquisition is remarkably stable regardless of the language(s) being acquired, and is believed to yield insights into the nature of human language. In this course, we explore children's capacity to acquire language, with a focus on its implications for linguistic theory. Topics include acquisition of phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics, and acquisition in extraordinary circumstances. Prerequisite: 100-level linguistics course. 6 credits; LS; Not offered 2017-18
LING 280 Field Methods in Linguistics This course will introduce students to techniques of linguistic research and analysis through direct work with a native speaker of a language not taught at Carleton. Students will learn techniques for eliciting, organizing, describing, and analyzing data in an ethically responsible and scientifically rigorous manner. Our goal is to develop a description of the language--primarily, aspects of its phonology, morphology, and syntax--through working exclusively with a native speaker. Each student will investigate some aspect of the language in depth, culminating in a class presentation and research report. Prerequisite: 100-level Linguistics course. 6 credits; LS; Spring; Catherine R Fortin
LING 285 Japanese Linguistics in Kyoto Seminar: The Linguistics of the Japanese Writing System The Japanese writing system is often said to be the most complicated in the world, even as Japan has among the very highest literacy rates. In this course, we will closely examine this extraordinary aspect of Japanese society, including its history, relationship with the spoken language, psychological processing, and neural implementation. Finally, we will examine the controversy concerning the use of Kanji, its political ramifications, and look at how the Japanese are responding to various pressures on the system. Experience with Japanese is not necessary. Prerequisite: 100-level Linguistics course. 6 credits; SI, IS; Spring; Mike Flynn
LING 286 Japanese Linguistics in Kyoto Seminar: The Structure of Japanese This course examines the nature of the Japanese language through the lens of contemporary linguistic theory. Topics include the history of the language, its sound structure, word formation operations, syntax, and its use in social and artistic contexts. This course is not intended to teach students to speak Japanese, and while experience with Japanese would be helpful, it is not necessary. Prerequisite: 100-level Linguistics course. 6 credits; FSR, IS; Spring; Mike Flynn
LING 288 The Structure of Dakota This course examines the nature of the endangered language Dakota, which was once spoken on what is today Carleton land. We will study several aspects of the language, including phonology, morphology, and syntax, with the assistance of speakers of the language from the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation. The goal of the course is to produce an array of careful, accurate, and clear descriptions of parts of the language, working towards a new pedagogical grammar of the language to be used in the construction of teaching materials for Dakota children.  Prerequisite: Linguistics 216 and 217. 6 credits; NE, IDS; Winter; Mike Flynn, Catherine R Fortin
LING 315 Topics in Syntax More on syntax. Particular topics vary by year and student interest. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; FSR; Not offered 2017-18
LING 316 Topics in Morphology This course explores how languages form words and how contemporary theories account for this complicated process. We concentrate primarily on the interaction between morphology and syntax, but we may also explore the relationship between morphology and phonology. While we will investigate a wide variety of languages, no familiarity with any language other than English is required. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; FSR; Not offered 2017-18
LING 317 Topics in Phonology More on phonology. This course examines a small number of topics in depth. Particular topics vary from year to year. Prerequisite: Linguistics 217. 6 credits; FSR; Not offered 2017-18
LING 325 Syntax of an Unfamiliar Language In this course we examine, with the help of a native speaker consultant, the syntax of a language deliberately chosen for its being unfamiliar to all the participants. Our goals will be to construct a coherent and theoretically respectable account of principles of the grammar of this language, and to understand what our account reveals about the structure of human language generally. Each student will investigate some aspect of the syntax of the language in depth, culminating in a class presentation and research report. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; LS; Fall; Catherine R Fortin
LING 340 Topics in Semantics Semantics is the study of meaning (broadly construed) in language. In this course we explore several objects of inquiry within the field of semantics, including compositional semantics (i.e., the computation of meaning over syntactic structures), lexical semantics, argument structure, and pragmatics. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; FSR; Spring; Cherlon L Ussery
LING 399 Senior Thesis 3 credits; S/CR/NC; FSR; Fall; Catherine R Fortin
LING 400 Integrative Exercise 6 credits; S/NC; Winter