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Linguistics (LING)

Director: Professor Michael J. Flynn

Professor: Michael J. Flynn

Post-Doctoral Fellow: Aniko Csirmaz

Linguistics is the study of the remarkable capacity of human beings to learn, use and manipulate the stunningly complex and orderly systems we call languages. Carleton offers a range of courses on this topic. In addition to those listed below, see those listed under the Cognitive Studies Concentration. There is not a regular major in Linguistics, but sometimes a special major is possible in conjuction with courses in another department. Please see our Web page for up to date information.

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 principles that regulate word order (and what these reveal about the nature of the mind), the course of language acquisition in children, and some of what is known about how knowledge of language is realized in the human brain. No prerequisite. 6 cr., SS, Fall,Winter,SpringA. Csirmaz, M. Flynn

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. No prerequisite. 6 cr., SS, WinterA. Csirmaz

LING 180. The Structure of Japanese This course will examine some aspects of Japanese from the viewpoint of linguistic theory. It is not conducted in Japanese, nor is it a course in which students will learn Japanese. Instead, we will look at the language in the same way that a biologist might look at a complicated organism, as an interesting object of study. We will examine its history, aspects of its structure, its use in social and artistic contexts. as well as its extraordinary writing system. Some knowledge of Japanese would be helpful, but is not required. No knowledge of linguistics will be presupposed. No prerequisites. 6 cr., SS, WinterM. Flynn

LING 185. The Structure of Hungarian This course will examine some aspects of Hungarian, a language unrelated to English and other languages you may be familiar with. In fact, Hungarians have been jokingly described as Martians because of the unintelligible (to non-Hungarians, of course) language they speak. We will discuss a number of differences between Hungarian and English, including word and sentence structure, and consider what these differences tell us about languages in general. We will also learn to identify some unusual properties of the Hungarian sound system. We'll explore how languages in general change by means of an examination of some recent changes in Hungarian. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

LING 210. Words and Rules This course uses Steven Pinker's 1999 book to guide an exploration of the contrast between processes involving memory and those requiring computation with the application of rules. Pinker suggests this distinction is fundamental to the understanding of the nature of human language, a claim we will closely examine. Prerequisite: Linguistics 110. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

LING 215. The Syntax of an Unfamiliar Language In this course we examine, with the help of a native speaker informant, the syntax of a language deliberately chosen for its being unfamiliar to all the participants. Our goal will be to construct a coherent and theoretically respectable account of some of the principles that enter into the cognitive organization of speakers of the selected language. Each student will investigate some aspect of the language in depth, culminating in a class presentation and research report. Prerequisite: Linguistics 115. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

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: Linguistics 110. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

LING 230. Language and Aspect The course explores some issues of aspect, which describes the properties of events and states as they are represented in languages. We will discuss how actual events in the real world are related to their linguistic representation and address some of the philosophical issues concerning events. In addition, the course offers a survey of the way different languages, including English, organize aspectual systems - that is, of the different ways real-time events can be perceived. Finally, we will discuss how aspect is expressed in various languages across the world, illustrating the widespread and intriguing variation that can be found among languages. Prerequisites: Linguistics 110 or permission of instructor. 6 cr., SS, SpringA Csirmaz

LING 250. Linguistics and the Literary Art This course examines approaches to the question: "How do artists who use language as a medium manipulate that medium, and to what effect?" Prerequisite: Linguistics 110 or permission of instructor. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

LING 270. Language, Speech, and Evolution Languages can be thought of as abstract devices that link signals and messages. For the signal part, the vast majority of human languages use speech. Speech production and speech perception are both very complicated, probably unique to human beings, and "tuned" to each other in interesting ways. In this course we will have a close look at the relevant mechanisms, with the goal of approaching the question of how this remarkable system could have arisen in our species. Prerequisite: Linguistics 110 or permission of the instructor. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

LING 285. Issues in Modern Japanese Grammar This course has two primary objectives. One is to examine the Japanese grammatical tradition within the framework of modern linguistics. The other is to combine the formal approach to syntax with a cognitive approach. Attempts will be made to tease apart structures regulated by formal syntactic properties (e.g. c-command) from those motivated by cognitive factors (e.g. proximity, empathy, point of view) so as to determine how the cognitive aspects of language use interacts with the formal mechanism in language faculty. Prerequisites: Linguistics 110, 115 or 180. 6 cr., SS, SpringM. Flynn

LING 317. Topics in Phonology More on phonology, with special attention to issues involving the evolution of sound systems and their development in children. Prerequisite: Linguistics 217. 6 cr., SS, Not offered in 2006-2007.

Other Courses Pertinent to Linguistics:

ASLN 111 Writing Systems

ASLN 260 Historical Linguistics