LING 407/507: Language Typology
Instructor: G. Tucker Childs
Language Typology (last taught Spring 2005) serves as a useful and paced introduction to (structural) linguistics beyond that received in an introductory course, e.g., Linguistics 390. It focuses on the study of language structure necessary for the study or teaching of foreign languages and prepares students for more theoretical and analytical courses, such as Semantics, Syntax nd Phonology, and even Pragmatics and Discourse Analysis. The emphasis is squarely on language description, how languages can be succinctly characterized so that they can be compared and contrasted with one another to reach generalizations about "Language".
Students will be introduced to the structural typing of languages with respect to both phonology (their sounds) and morphosyntax (the order of meaningful forms). This introduction will necessarily involve a broad study of language structure, but there will also be some language-specific concentration required of each student. At the beginning of the course students will be assigned a language to serve as the focus of their class presentations and final paper (graduate students only). Using this language as a source of data, students will consider issues in description, typological classification, universals (what's always there), and markedness (what's unusual or unexpected). On the basis of their own work and that of others in the course, students will learn to evaluate what is unusual and what is expected in a language.
Most often English will serve as the reference language, but we will consider a broad range of other languages as well. The emphasis will be on collaboration, sharing data and insights with each other, as the class builds a critical mass of knowledge on which the entire class can draw and reflect. In addition to exploring these structural patterns, we will consider explanations for why some forms are possible and others are not. Functional explanations will be explored for understanding both expected and unexpected features in languages of the world, e.g., physiological constraints on the speech mechanism for phonology, cognitive constraints for syntax, iconicity for both. We will also include what many consider to be outlier types of language (sign language, child language, and pidgins) for their contributions to a fully articulated typology of languages and theory of language.
Besides introducing students to language structure, the course will have relevance to patterns of first and second language acquisition, to historical-comparative linguistics, to language variation and change, to sociolinguistics and pragmatics, and to general linguistic theory. At the end of the course students will have some familiarity with languages of the world and with the descriptive apparatus used to characterize them. They will also have some knowledge of functional explanations in linguistics, i.e., explaining language origin, language structure, and language change in terms of communicative function.
Prerequisites: LING 390
Major Assignments: Undergraduate students will be evaluated on the following basis:
class participation (10%), assignments (35%; 7 at 5% each), class presentations (two at 15% each), and a final exam (25%).
Class participation will consist at least partially of answering questions as set by the instructor. For example, students could be asked to prepare answers for questions on the reading or on their focus language with regard to the topic at hand. In many cases these answers will be submitted in a written form. Graduate students will, in addition, be expected to write a final paper (20%, other percentages adjusted proportionately).
The two class presentations will each include an extensive handout with enough copies for everyone in the class. Both the oral presentation and the written handout will be evaluated for a grade.
An outline of the requirements for each presentation follows.
Presentation 1: An introduction to the language of focus. Each student will provide information on the geographical location, historical background, classification, typological overview, salient features, etc., of the language. The first presentation will familiarize the rest of the class with the student's chosen language and prepare the student for the second presentation.
Presentation 2: Contrastive analysis. The second presentation will compare the student's language(s) of choice to English and to other languages with which the student is familiar. Reference will also be made to universally attested features in both phonology and morphosyntax on the basis of what has been covered in the course at the time of the presentation.
The graduate student's final paper will be on a topic determined on the basis of consultation with the instructor. Topics could come from any three of the following major areas of the course: language universals, functional explanation, and language change. The paper can be broad in its approach, treating all areas of a language's grammar, or narrowly focused on a particular feature of interest to the student. The paper could also draw on collateral interests, e.g., in language acquisition, language pedagogy, or sociolinguistics. Graduate students will outline their paper to the class as a whole in an oral presentation at the end of the course.
The final exam will be based on the readings of the course, lectures, and class presentations. The questions will require short answers and be relatively objective in nature.
Textbooks: Required: Whaley, Lindsay J. 1997. Introduction to Typology, The Unity and Diversity of Language. Thousand Oaks, CA, London, and New Dehli: Sage Publications.
A grammar of a language unknown to the student.
Excerpts from: Childs, G. Tucker. 2003. An Introduction to African Languages. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
Reading packet: Childs, G. Tucker. 1994. African ideophones. Studies in Sound Symbolism, ed. L. Hinton, J. Nichols, J. Ohala, pp. 247-279. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Comrie, Bernard. 1981. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (pp. 1-50)
Greenberg, Joseph H. 1970. Language universals. In Current Trends in Linguistics 3, ed. Thomas A. Sebeok, 61-112. The Hague: Mouton.
Maddieson, Ian. 1984. Patterns of Sounds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Chapters Ch 1-3, and 10.)
Recommended: Comrie, Bernard. 1989. Language Universals and Linguistic Typology (2nd ed). Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Croft, William. 1990. Typology and Universals, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Greenberg, Joseph H., Charles A. Ferguson, and Edith A. Moravcsik, eds. 1978. Universals of Human Language. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Heine, Bernd, and Tania Kuteva. 2001. World Lexicon of Grammaticalization. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ladefoged, Peter, and Ian Maddieson. 1996. The Sounds of the World's Languages. Oxford, UK and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
Shopen, Timothy, ed. 1985. Language Typology and Syntactic Description (3 vols: I Clause Structure; II Complex Constructions; III Grammatical Categories and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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