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, and 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.

Prospective majors are encouraged to take LING 216 as sophomores, if possible. This course is offered once per year, in the winter term. The upper-level requirements for the major can still be comfortably completed if LING 216 is taken in the junior year, but as many of the 300-level courses have LING 216 as their prerequisite, taking LING 216 as a sophomore affords much greater flexibility. Prospective majors are invited to consult the department chair regarding long-term course planning.

Requirements for the Linguistics Major

A total of 69 credits

  • Four core courses (24 credits)
    Either LING 100 or 110 and the three remaining courses
  • Three 300-level courses (18 credits)
    • LING 315 Topics in Syntax
    • LING 316 Topics in Morphology
    • LING 317 Topics in Phonology (not offered in 2021-22)
    • LING 325 Syntax of an Unfamiliar Language (not offered in 2021-22)
    • LING 340 Topics in Semantics
    • LING 375 Second Language Acquisition: Speech
  • Three electives (18 credits)
    • At least two drawn from:
      • ASLN 111 Writing Systems
      • ASLN 260 Historical Linguistics (not offered in 2021-22)
      • LING 135 Introduction to Sociolinguistics
      • LING 150 From Esperanto to Dothraki: The Linguistics of Invented Languages
      • LING 222 The Forms of Words in the World's Languages (not offered in 2021-22)
      • LING 232 Structure and History of German
      • LING 240 Semantics and Pragmatics (not offered in 2021-22)
      • LING 275 First Language Acquisition (not offered in 2021-22)
      • LING 280 Field Methods in Linguistics (not offered in 2021-22)
      • 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
      • LING 288 The Structure of Dakota (not offered in 2021-22)
    • At most one drawn from:
      • CGSC 232 Cognitive Processes
      • CHIN 252 The Chinese Language: A Linguistic and Cultural Survey (not offered in 2021-22)
      • CS 202 Mathematics of Computer Science
      • CS 254 Computability and Complexity
      • CS 322 Natural Language Processing (not offered in 2021-22)
      • PHIL 210 Logic
      • PHIL 223 Philosophy of Language (not offered in 2021-22)
      • PHIL 225 Philosophy of Mind
      • PSYC 234 Psychology of Language (not offered in 2021-22)
      • PSYC 362 Psychology of Spoken Words (not offered in 2021-22)
      • PSYC 366 Cognitive Neuroscience (not offered in 2021-22)
      • PSYC 375 Language and Deception

Linguistics Courses

LING 100 The Noun We've all been taught that nouns are people, places, and things. Yet, these seemingly simple linguistic objects are surprisingly complex. For instance, languages vary in what information (e.g., case, gender, person, number) nouns display. Even within a single language, the form of a noun may change depending on its function within a sentence or its function within a conversation. This course uses contemporary linguistic theories to account for the many varied forms of nouns throughout the world's languages. No familiarity with languages other than English is required. 6 credits; AI, WR1; Fall; Cherlon L Ussery
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; Jenna T Conklin, Catherine R Fortin
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, Spring; Catherine R Fortin
LING 135 Introduction to Sociolinguistics There is a complex relationship between language and society. This course examines how language variation is tied to identity and the role of language in human social interaction. We will consider language as it relates to social status, age, gender, ethnicity, and location as well as theoretical models used to study variation. We will also examine how language is used in conversation, in the media, and beyond using ethnography of communication and discourse analysis. You will become more aware of how language is used in your own daily life and will be able to argue sociolinguistic perspectives on language attitudes. 6 credits; SI, IDS; Winter; Morgan Rood
LING 150 From Esperanto to Dothraki: The Linguistics of Invented Languages What lies behind the human urge to construct new languages? How has language invention changed over time? What can invented languages teach us about the function of natural languages and their syntactic, morphological, and phonological structure? In this course, students will dive into the history of invented languages, tackle the question of what constitutes a language, and ultimately try their hand at constructing their own language. We’ll explore what separates natural languages from invented ones and discuss how often the very qualities that their creators find most desirable inhibit the widespread adoption they envision for their languages. 6 credits; SI; Spring; Jenna T Conklin
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; Catherine R Fortin
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; Jenna T Conklin, Daniel K Haataja
LING 222 The Forms of Words in the World's Languages Languages vary in what kind of information is morphologically expressed. 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 investigate the morphological patterns in at least a dozen (probably more!) languages with the goals of arriving at both cross-linguistic generalizations and language-particular nuances. No familiarity with languages other than English is required. Prerequisite: 100-level linguistics course. 6 credits; FSR; Not offered 2021-22
LING 232 Structure and History of German Why does German sometimes put the verb second and sometimes at the end, and how did this strange arrangement emerge? What differentiates the Scandinavian languages from Germanic tongues from more central latitudes? How did Germans come to say Apfel, while English and Dutch speakers say apple/appel? This course will explore these and similar questions, providing a linguistic overview of the German language and investigating key historical developments in the Germanic language family. Key topics will include dialectal variation, historical sound change, and syntactic structure, with primary focus on German and some attention to the Germanic language family as a whole. Prerequisite: Either previous or concurrent enrollment in any Carleton Linguistics courses or knowledge of German or another Germanic language (not English). Concurrent enrollment in German 101 or higher statisfies the knowledge of German requirement. 6 credits; HI, IS; Fall; Jenna T Conklin
LING 240 Semantics and Pragmatics A central part of the grammar of a language is the meaning associated with words and phrases. This course explores the multi-faceted system that speakers access both when producing sentences and when interpreting them. Topics include the complexity surrounding actually defining words, the meanings of various modal verbs, and theories of pragmatics and the rules of conversation, among other topics. Content will differ slightly, depending on whether students have had previous linguistics courses or not. 6 credits; SI; Not offered 2021-22
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 2021-22
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; Not offered 2021-22
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 J 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 J 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 115 or Linguistics 217 (Linguistics 217 can be taken simultaneously). 6 credits; IDS, NE; Not offered 2021-22
LING 315 Topics in Syntax More on syntax. Particular topics vary by year and student interest. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; FSR; Fall; Catherine R Fortin
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; Spring; Morgan Rood
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 2021-22
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; Not offered 2021-22
LING 340 Topics in Semantics Semantics is the study of what words and constructions mean in a language and how speakers come to actually interpret those meanings. 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 (with a particular emphasis on verb meanings), and how the various interpretations of ambiguous constructions are derived. Prerequisite: Linguistics 216. 6 credits; FSR; Spring; Cherlon L Ussery
LING 375 Second Language Acquisition: Speech Why do some people acquiring a second language obtain a pronunciation indistinguishable from that of native speakers, while others, despite excellent skills in the areas of syntax, semantics, and vocabulary, never shed their “foreign accent”? In this seminar, we will explore theoretical models that examine the impact of factors like age of acquisition, length of residence, motivation, learning environment, language identity, and native language on the phonetics and phonology of second language acquisition, looking at speech production and perception. The course will be organized around a term-long collaborative research project, with goals and topic set by the class. Prerequisite: Linguistics 217. 6 credits; SI, QRE; Winter; Jenna T Conklin
LING 399 Senior Thesis 3 credits; S/CR/NC; FSR; Fall, Winter; Catherine R Fortin
LING 400 Integrative Exercise 6 credits; S/NC; Winter, Spring; Catherine R Fortin