Pre-College Programs
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Intro to Language and Linguistics

This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.

Course Description

Language, the foundation for virtually every human endeavor, remains in many ways as mysterious as our own muscles--the fact that we use them does not automatically grant us an understanding of how they work. Learning about language structure and language use gives us unexpected insights into our ability to communicate and the nature of our social interactions.

This course enables pre-college students to explore this central human trait by introducing them to linguistics, a discipline with roots in social science, education, science, and the humanities. We will study how people produce, hear, and classify speech sounds, and how we structure and group words. We will also investigate the ways we use and interpret language in everyday life, and discuss some key findings in such fields as sociolinguistics, neurolinguistics, and historical linguistics. The resulting awareness of how language works will serve students well in fields as diverse as education, medicine, philosophy, and computer science. Moreover, the ability to look objectively at a familiar phenomenon about which we have deep-rooted preconceptions develops critical thinking skills that are vital to college-level study.

We will focus on the traditionally defined structures of language, as students learn the basics of the International Phonetic Alphabet and of morphological and syntactic analysis. As well as studying these material and skills, students will write short papers about their experiences with linguistic differences, and will discuss these issues in class. We will then explore topics in language use, directed to some extent by the specific interests and experiences of the students. During the second week, students will also carry out a mini-research project in which they will explore and describe some aspect of linguistic diversity in America. Students will accomplish three main goals with this project: they will use and refine their newfound skills in linguistic analysis; they will conduct a small but genuine piece of original research; and they will deepen their understanding of language as a cultural phenomenon.

Students will strengthen analytical skills vital to college work and improve their academic writing skills through a series of short essays, response papers, and the mini-research project.

There are no prerequisites for this course.