Introduction to Linguistics

11-12:15 pm Tuesday, Thursday, Blake 108

Instructor: Clifton Pye (pyersqr (at) ku (dot) edu)

Office Hours: Thursday 2:30-4:00 or by appointment

Textbook: Language Files 11. The Ohio State University.

Linguistics is one of the best kept secrets in any university. The central concern of linguistics is the scientific study of language. The ability to use language creatively is the fundamental cognitive ability that separates humans from all other living creatures. As speakers of a language, students have immediate access to primary linguistic data and can test linguistic theories for themselves. This allows students to engage in the scientific study of language data from the beginning without elaborate ‘collecting’ expeditions. This course will acquaint students with many aspects of language, including language structure, language universals, language acquisition, the social and historical consequences of language use, and the physical and psychological bases of human language. The course will highlight a few key findings in each of these areas as well as cover some issues that remain controversial. Students should leave the course with an understanding of why the study of language is crucial to a modern, monolingual society.


        A. Class participation             20%

        B. Weekly assignments          20%

        C. First exam                         20%

        D. Second exam                    20%

        E. Term paper                     20%

Class participation includes regular attendance and participation in classroom discussions. You should complete the assigned readings by the Monday of each week in order to make the most of each class. Part of each week’s class will be devoted to discussing a chapter from the textbook, but most of the time we will be discussing material from other sources. We’ll be moving pretty quickly through some dense material so regular attendance is necessary to keep up with the discussion.

There will be ten weekly assignments that count towards 20% of the final grade. The assignments will be graded pass/fail. Two points will be taken off the final grade for each incomplete or late assignment. Late assignments will be accepted up to one week after the due date. Five points will be taken off the final grade for each missing weekly assignment. Absenteeism is not an acceptable excuse.

There will be two in-class exams. Each exam counts towards 20% of the final grade. The exams will have a short-answer format and will cover all material discussed in class, in the readings (whether discussed in class or not), and material from the assignments.

The final part of your grade will be based on a term paper. This will provide you with an opportunity to explore an aspect of language in more depth than will be possible in class discussions. Your paper may take the traditional form of analyzing various sources, or you can put together your own investigation and present a project report for the term paper. You may work in groups on a project, but you must be careful to identify the work contributed by each member of the group. I will ask each of you to meet with me around the middle of the semester to discuss possible topics for your paper. You will present your topics and a progress update to the class towards the end of March. The paper will count as 20% of the final grade.

Any student who has a disability which may prevent his/her ability to participate fully in the course should contact the instructor as soon as possible so that class requirements can be discussed.


The reading assignments are designed to compliment the class lectures for the week. Therefore, it is to your advantage to complete the reading by the corresponding date. Exercises assigned during a given week will be due the following Tuesday at the beginning of class.




Web Links

Aug. 21

The Science of Language

Files Chapter 1 and File 12.6

Just For Fun, Lexicon of Linguistics

Aug. 28


Files 4.1-4.2, 9.0-9.2, 9.5

How Many?, Slips of the Tongue, Weird Words

Sept. 4

Word Meaning

Files Chapter 6

Semantics, Tense, Metaphor

Sept. 11


Files Chapter 7

Semantics vs. Pragmatics, Pragmatics, Discourse

Sept. 18

The Sounds in Words

Files Chapter 2

The IPA, Vocal Folds, Klingon

Sept. 25

First Exam

Study Questions


Sept. 27

Systems of Sounds

Files Chapter 3

Words and Sounds, Canadian Raising, English Spelling, Clusters

Oct. 9


Oct. 11

Word Structures

Files 4.3-4.5


Oct. 18

Word Histories

Files Chapter 13

Origin of Language, Stress Shift, Do, Names, Hittite

Oct. 30

Pidgins & Creoles

Files 12-12.4


Nov. 1

Second Exam

Study Questions


Nov. 6

Word Order

Files Chapter 5

Syntax, Empty Categories, Verb Particles, Case, Cause

Nov. 13

Language Variation

Files Chapter 10


Nov. 20

Children’s First Words

Files Chapter 8

Child Language

Nov. 22


Nov. 27


File Chapter 15

Our Alphabet, Mesoamerica, Epi-Olmec, Texting

Dec. 4


Supplemental Reading:

Textbooks can’t cover every interesting aspect of language, even ones with 660 pages. I provide the following titles as suggestions to augment your reading pleasure and/or places to start in researching your term paper. Enjoy!

General Linguistics

Bloomfield, Leonard. 1933. Language. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Crystal, David. 1987. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press.

Hymes, Dell, Ed. 1964. Language in Culture and Society. New York: Harper & Row.

Sapir, Edward. 1921. Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.


Casti, John L. 1990. Searching for Certainty. New York: William Morrow.

de Santillana, Giorgio. 1955. The Crime of Galileo. Chicago: The U. of Chicago Press.

Gould, Stephen J. 1989. Wonderful Life. New York: W. W. Norton.

Kuhn, Thomas S. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The U. of Chicago Press.

Petroski, Henry. 1992. The Pencil. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.


Aitchison, Jean. 1994. Words in the Mind, 2nd Ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Miller, George A. 1996. The Science of Words. New York: Scientific American Library.


Ellis, John M. 1993. Language, Thought, and Logic. Evanston, IL: Northwestern U. Press.

Green, Georgia M. 1989. Pragmatics and Natural Language Understanding. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Pulman, S. G. 1983. Word Meaning and Belief. New Jersey: Ablex.

Putnam, Hilary. 1988. Representation and Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Quine, W. V. O. 1960. Word & Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Stainton, Robert J. 1996. Philosophical Perspectives on Language. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.


Ladefoged, Peter. 1996. Elements of Acoustic Phonetics, 2nd Ed. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press.

Ladefoged, Peter & Maddieson, Ian. 1996. The Sounds of the World’s Languages. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Kent, Ray D. & Read, Charles. 1992. The Acoustic Analysis of Speech. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group.


Chomsky, Noam. 1965. Aspects of the Theory of Syntax. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Language Change

Haas, Mary R. 1969. The Prehistory of Languages. The Hague: Mouton.

Hill, Kenneth C., Ed. 1979. The Genesis of Language. Ann Arbor, MI: Karoma.

Nichols, Johanna. 1992. Linguistic Diversity in Space and Time. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press.

Watkins, Calvert. 1985. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Language Typology

Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Ruhlen, Merritt. 1987. A Guide to the World’s Languages. Stanford, CA: Stanford U. Press.

Shopen, Timothy. 1985. Language Typology and Syntactic Description. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press.

Language Variation

Labov, William. 1972. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press.

Labov, William. Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press.

McNeil, Robin. The Story of English.

Trudgill, Peter. 1974. Sociolinguistics. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin.


Clark, Herbert H. & Clark, Eve V. 1977. Psychology and Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Gleason, Jean Berko & Ratner, Nan Bernstein, Eds. 1993. Psycholinguistics. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich.

Pinker, Steven. 1994. The Language Instinct. New York: William Morrow.

Language Acquisition

Ingram, David. 1989. First Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press.

Pinker, Steven. 1984. Language Learnability and Language Development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press.

Radford, Andrew. 1990. Syntactic Theory and the Acquisition of English Syntax. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell.


Coe, Michael D. 1992. Breaking the Maya Code. New York: Thames and Hudson.

Houston, S. D. 1989. Maya Glyphs. Berkeley, CA: U. of California Press.

Language and Computers

Allen, James. 1995. Natural Language Understanding, 2nd Ed. Redwood City, CA: Benjamin/Cummings.

Haugeland, John (Ed.). 1981. Mind Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.