For May 26…

Final paper, worth 10% of your overall grade, due 11:59pm on Sunday, 26 May:

In this class, we explored a number of topics from the broad field of linguistics. Your final paper is a reflection paper with two main prompts, both of which should be answered. (1) Which of these topics did you find most interesting or significant? How did learning about it in class change your perspective on your own language(s), or language in general? (2) What topic or topics did you wish we had covered more extensively in class? What question(s) did you have about language at the start of class that you would like to have explored further?

Your paper should be at least 200 words long. Please email it to me as a .pdf or .docx attachment.

For May 14…

• Rather than a weekly discussion thread, watch this video. I made it last year but it covers some parts I couldn’t get to tonight:
Ignore the slang reading by McWhorter I mention on there — we didn’t read it this year.

• Blog Post #4:
The readings for this week deal with language change. What is made clear throughout is that all languages are constantly changing; this is, and has always been, the normal situation for every language.

With that in mind, I’d like you to turn your focus on your own language – whether it be English or another language that you speak or grew up speaking. After doing the reading, I’d like you to talk to someone older than yourself – a parent, a grandparent, a mentor, anyone at least 10 years older than you – about changes they’ve noticed between the way that they grew up speaking your language, and the way that you speak your language. Is your accent different? Do you use different words? Did the spelling system change at all? Report your findings. 250 words.

• Read Encyclopedia of the World’s Endangered Languages pp.vii–xvi and the paragraph-long description of any endangered or extinct language from North America — your choice. You will briefly discuss this language during our next class, which will count as your quiz grade.

For May 7th

  • Read pp.21–28 and 33–36 in Rickerson & Hilton and pp.131–137 in David Crystal.
  • Optional: Submit the extra credit assignment. There are two options for this:

Extra Credit Option 1:

  • Some words clearly consist of a single morpheme, like cat or giraffe. Others clearly have two or more, like cats and reconditioning. Still others can be difficult to identify one way or the other, like boysenberry and transport. (See p. 159 for a refresher.) Based on what’s discussed in the chapter, provide a list of three words: one with one morpheme, one with two morphemes, and one that could be analyzed as having one or two. In addition to the words, list what the morphemes are, and explain the ambiguity around the third word. (You will earn one point for correctly identifying the three words, one point for each word whose morphemes you correctly identify, and one for your explanation of the third word’s ambiguity.)

    Crucially, do not reuse words from the textbook or that we used in class.

    To give an example with the words I provided, you could write something like:
  • One morpheme: giraffe. The only morpheme in giraffe is giraffe.
  • Two morphemes: cats. The morphemes are the root cat and the plural suffix –s.
  • One or two morphemes: Boysenberry. It seems like a compound, like blackberry or blueberry, and it clearly contains the word berry, so it seems like it has two morphemes. But Language Files specifies that “a morpheme is typically defined as the smallest linguistic unit with a meaning […] or a grammatical function” (p.158), and boysen doesn’t have a meaning or any sort of clear grammatical function. If boysen isn’t a morpheme, then boysenberry can’t be a compound, and seems like it must have only one morpheme.
  • Submit this as a .pdf or .docx attachment in an email to me. The file should be saved as “LING 201 [Your Last Name] Extra Credit.”

Extra Credit Option 2:

  • Write out two IPA transcriptions of your first and last name as you pronounce them. Include both a /phonological transcription/ and a [phonetic transcription] for each. There may be a few differences between these two. For any one of these differences, write out a rule to explain it. For example, in my own last name, you can see such a distinction: phonologically it’s /pɛnˈtænʤəloʊ/ but phonetically it’s [pɛnˈtʰænʤəloʊ/. The rule that explains this difference is Aspiration, mentioned in Language Files on page 127. (You will earn one point for the phonemic transcription of your first name, one for the phonemic transcription of your surname, one for the phonetic transcription of your first name, one for the phonetic transcription of your surname, and one for the rule.)
  • Submit this as a .pdf or .docx attachment in an email to me. The file should be saved as “LING 201 [Your Last Name] Extra Credit.”

For April 9th

  • Read pp.154–170 in Language Files.
  • Submit Blog Post #3 by 11:59pm on Friday, April 12th:
    As discussed in class and the reading, a proposition makes a claim that may be either true or false. Often, we don’t actually know the “truth value” of a proposition – i.e. whether it is true or false – but we do know the “truth conditions” – i.e. what it would take for that proposition to be true. We also know what it would entail – i.e. what other statements would have to be true – if that proposition were true.

    For example, take the proposition “Joe Pentangelo ate scrambled eggs for breakfast today.” You don’t know its truth value: it may be true or false. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But you know the truth conditions – it would be true if and only if I really did eat scrambled eggs for breakfast. You also know that there are a few other propositions that must be true if that one is, like “Joe Pentangelo ate breakfast,” “Joe Pentangelo ate eggs,” and “Joe Pentangelo ate today.”

    For this post, write three separate propositions, one of which you know to be true, one of which you know to be false, and one of which you don’t know the truth value of. For each proposition, write out its truth conditions, as well as one other proposition that it entails – a sentence that would have to be true if the original sentence were true (even for the one you know isn’t).

    For a full example, this would be a successful post:

  • Proposition: I have two cats.
  • Truth value: True.
  • Truth conditions: In order for this to be true, I need to own and live with two cats.
  • Entailment: “I have two cats” entails “I have at least one cat.”

  • Proposition: I have a nose ring.
  • Truth value: False.
  • Truth conditions: I would have to actually have a nose piercing with a ring in it.
  • Entailment: “I have a nose ring” entails “My nose is pierced.”

  • Proposition: There is life on Mars.
  • Truth value: Unknown.
  • Truth conditions: For this to be true, there would have to be at least one living organism on the planet of Mars.
  • Entailment: “There is life on Mars” would entail “There is life on a planet other than earth.”

March 5

For next week’s class (March 12):

  • Read pp.122–140 in Language Files. There’ll be a quiz on this reading at the start of class.
  • Submit blog post #2 by the start of class. Your post will be graded according to this rubric. The assignment is as follows:

As discussed in the textbook and in class, when a word is borrowed from one language into another, its pronunciation is adapted to suit the phonotactics and phonemic inventory of the borrowing language.

For example, when birth control /bəɹθ kəntɹol/ was borrowed into Japanese, its pronunciation became [ba:sɯ kontoɾo:ɾɯ]. The different phonemic inventories in Japanese and English mean that several sounds had to be reassigned. In Japanese, there is no [θ], so this sound was reassigned to [s], which is the sound in Japanese most similar to [θ]. (Both are voiceless fricatives.) And in Japanese, the rhotic consonant is [ɾ], not [ɹ], so this sound got reassigned as well – and since there is no [l], it, too, got reassigned to [ɾ].

In terms of phonotactics, consonant clusters like the “tr” are not allowed at the start of a syllable, so an [o] got inserted there. And syllables usually can’t end in non-nasal consonants, so a [ɯ] got inserted at the end of both words.

Your assignment for this blog post is to identify a similar example. What’s a word or phrase that got borrowed from one language (the donor language) into another language (the borrowing language)? How is it pronounced in the donor language, and how is it pronounced in the borrowing language? Show pronunciation using the IPA. What’s different? And how was the pronunciation adapted to fit the phonemic inventory and phonotactics of the borrowing language?

If you use a word borrowed into English, the Oxford English Dictionary is a great resource. Log in with your CSI library credentials. Any resources you use should be scholarly – peer-reviewed or published by a reputable press, ideally an academic publisher. You can use any citation format you like (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.), just make sure you’re consistent.

This should be at least 150 words long.

February 13th

For this week…

For next week…

  • Read pp.21–33 in David Crystal’s book and pp.124–127 in 5 Minute Linguist. There will be a quiz on these readings at the start of class.
  • Post Blog Post 1 by 6:30pm on Tuesday, February 20th. Be sure to choose “Blog Post 1” at the category for your post. Let me know as soon as possible if you cannot post to our class site. Your response should be at least 150 words long. Do not use ChatGPT or any other AI platform to help craft your answer. Your post should respond to the following prompt:
    In this week’s readings, you’re introduced to a topic that you may not have previously encountered: prescriptivism, the perspective that educators and society at large – the “linguistic gatekeepers” that Dennis R. Preston talks about – should play an active role in shaping how people use their language, on the one hand; and descriptivism, the perspective that we as linguists have a duty to describe language as it is, rather than to prescribe or control how it “should” be used. Linguists like myself are generally quite dubious of prescriptivism.
    With this in mind, I’d like you to reflect on past classes that you’ve had, from any time (pre-K through the current semester). What were some of the prescriptive rules that you were taught? Were you told that “ain’t” was less valid than “aren’t”? Were you taught not to use the “double negative”? What reasons were provided for why these forms were “wrong”? And did you stop using these forms in your everyday life?