2020 - 2021 Course Schedule

Linguistics 2020-2021 Course Schedule

As announced by the President of Columbia University in April 2020, the 2020-2021 academic year will be comprised of three semesters: Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021. The Linguistics program will therefore offer courses in each of these terms.

This page provides an overview of our course offerings for all three terms, to help students as they plan for the academic year ahead. Please note that this schedule may be subject to change, and students are encouraged not only to revisit this page but also to confirm the course listings in the online Directory of Courses and Vergil.

In addition to our semester-long (14-week) course offerings, we will also offer 7-week immersive courses during the first half of the summer semester, Summer A. These courses will cover a semester’s worth of material in a shorter period of time and will meet for twice as many hours per week, allowing more contact between faculty and students and more sustained focus on the class content.

For questions, please contact Meredith Landman, Director of Undergraduate Studies, ml4263@columbia.edu

2020-2021 Year at a Glance


Fall 2020

  • Fall linguistics courses will run the full 14-week term, Tuesday, Sept 8, 2020 to Wed., Dec. 23, 2020.
  • Course meeting times can be found in the Directory of Classes; course descriptions are listed below.

Term

Subject

Course #

Course title

Instructor

Fall

LING

UN3103

Language, Brain & Mind

William Foley

Fall

LING

GU4108

Language History

Meredith Landman

Fall

LING

GU4171

Languages of Africa

John McWhorter

Fall

LING

GU4800

Language & Society

John McWhorter

Fall

LING

GU4903

Syntax

Meredith Landman


Spring 2021

  • Spring linguistics courses will run the full 14-week term, Mon., Jan. 11, 2021 to Mon., Apr. 26, 2021.
  • Course meeting times will be available in advance of the early registration period in November 2020.

Term

Subject

Course #

Course title

Instructor

Spring

LING

UN3101

Introduction to Linguistics

John McWhorter

Spring

LING

GU4120

Language Documentation & Field Methods

Meredith Landman

Spring

LING

GU4206

Advanced Grammar & Grammars

Alan Timberlake

Spring

LING

GU4376

Phonetics & Phonology

Meredith  Landman

Spring

AMST

UN3930

Languages of America

John McWhorter

 

Summer 2021

  • Summer linguistics courses will run the 7-week Summer A term, Mon., May 3, 2021 to Fri., June 18, 2021.
  • Course meeting times will be available in advance of the registration period in April 2021.

Term

Subject

Course #

Course title

Instructor

Summer A

LING

UN3102

Endangered Languages in the Global City

Ross Perlin

Summer A

LING

GU4800

Language & Society

William Foley

2020-2021 Linguistics Course Descriptions

               

Fall 2020

LING UN3103: Language, Brain & Mind
William Foley
MW, 2:40 – 3:55
The ability to speak distinguishes humans from all other animals, including our closest relatives, the chimpanzees. Why is this so? What makes this possible? This course seeks to answer these questions. We will look at the neurological and psychological foundations of the human faculty of language. How did our brains change to allow language to evolve? Where in our brains are the components of language found? Are our minds specialized for learning language or is it part of our general cognitive abilities to learn? How are words and sentences produced and their meanings recognized? The structure of languages around the world varies greatly; does this have psychological effects for their speakers?

LING GU4108: Language History
Meredith Landman
TR, 1:10 – 2:25
Language, like all components of culture, is structured and conventional, yet can nevertheless change over time. This course examines how language changes, firstly as a self-contained system that changes organically and autonomously, and secondly as contextualized habits that change in time, in space, and in communities. Topics include: types of change (sound change, borrowing, analogy), the classification of languages into linguistic families, methods for reconstructing earlier stages of a language, and ways of using language to study prehistory.


LING GU4171: Languages of Africa
John McWhorter
MW, 11:40 – 12:55

The African continent is home not to simply a collection of similar ‘African dialects,’ but to at least 1000 distinct languages that belong to five language families, none of them any more closely related than English and its relatives are to Japanese. This includes the Semitic languages that emerged in the Middle East and are now most commonly associated with Arabic and Hebrew, the famous ‘click’ languages of Southern Africa whose origins are still shrouded by mystery, and in the case of Malagasy on Madagascar, the Austronesian family of Southeast Asia and Oceania – the language traces to speakers who travelled over the ocean from Borneo to Africa. This course will examine languages in all of these families, with a focus on how they demonstrate a wide array of linguistic processes and how they interact with social history, anthropology, and geography.

LING GU4800: Language & Society
John McWhorter
TR, 2:40 – 3:55
How language structure and usage varies according to societal factors such as social history and socioeconomic factors, illustrated with study modules on language contact, language standardization and literacy, quantitative sociolinguistic theory, language allegiance, and language and power.

LING GU4903: Syntax
Meredith Landman
TR, 10:10 – 11:25

An introduction to the study of sentence structure. Topics include how different languages organize words into phrases and sentences, the role of the lexicon and word meaning in phrase structure, and long-distance dependencies and movement constructions, all with a focus on data analysis and syntactic argumentation.

 

Spring 2021

LING UN3101: Introduction to Linguistics
John McWhorter
An introduction to the study of language from a scientific perspective. The course is divided into three units: language as a system (sounds, morphology, syntax, and semantics), language in context (in space, time and community), and language of the individual (psycholinguistics, errors, aphasia, neurology of language, and acquisition).

LING GU4120: Language Documentation & Field Methods
Meredith Landman
In light of the predicted loss of up to 90% of the world languages by the end of this century, it has become urgent that linguists take a more active role in documenting and conserving endangered languages. In this course, we will learn the essential skills and technology of language documentation through work with speakers of an endangered language.

LING GU4206: Advanced Grammars & Grammars
Alan Timberlake
An investigation of the possible types of grammatical phenomena (argument structure, tense/aspect/mood, relative clauses, classifiers, and deixis). This typological approach is enriched by the reading of actual grammars of languages from Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas in which grammatical descriptions are read with an eye to important notional concepts of grammar: reference and categorization, case and role of arguments with predicates (ergativity), tense/aspect/mood. Discussion of meaning is combined with attention to expression (that is, morphology), which yanks our attention towards language change (grammaticalization).

LING GU4376: Phonetics & Phonology
Meredith Landman
An investigation of the sounds of human language, from the perspective of both phonetics (articulation and acoustics, including computer-aided acoustic analysis) and phonology (how sounds pattern and function in individual languages.).

 

Summer A 2021


LING UN3102: Endangered Languages
Ross Perlin
Of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages – representing migrations and historical developments thousands of years old – the majority are oral, little-documented, and increasingly endangered under the onslaught of global languages like English. This course takes the unprecedented, paradoxical linguistic capital of New York City as a lens for examining how immigrants form communities in a new land, how those communities are integrated into the wider society, and how they grapple with linguistic and cultural loss. In focus will be texts, materials, encounters, and potentially fieldwork with three of the city’s newest and least-studied indigenous immigrant communities (indigenous Latin Americans, Himalayans, and Central Asians). An additional theme will be the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit NYC immigrant communities particularly hard, while also generating inspired responses.

Cities now constitute a crucial site for understanding migration and cultural change, with language a vehicle for culture. Indigeneity, though often invisible or perceived as marginal in global cities like New York, is in fact pervasive and fundamental. Studying cultures only in situ (i.e. in their homelands) risks missing a crucial dimension. Students will become familiar with several stateless, oral, immigrant cultures while also gaining a hands-on critical understanding of language endangerment and urban sociolinguistic research. No previous linguistics background is required, and language will be approached in connection with wider political, social, and cultural questions.

The Endangered Language Alliance (ELA), where the instructor is Co-Director, was formed as a non-profit research institute in 2010 as a forum for researchers, community members, activists, artists, and other New Yorkers to come together to support Indigenous and minority languages. ELA’s video recordings provide first-hand testimony of endangered languages in the global city – in Indigenous languages with English translation – available in few other places. Those texts will be central to this course, supplemented by the new, first-ever, detailed language map of New York City being produced by ELA.

LING GU4800: Language & Society
William Foley
How language structure and usage varies according to societal factors such as social history and socioeconomic factors, illustrated with study modules on language contact, language standardization and literacy, quantitative sociolinguistic theory, language allegiance, and language and power.