Courses in English Language & Linguistics

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English 314: The Structure of English

In this course we discuss the fundamentals of the syntactic structure of English sentences. Our approach is that grammar is not something scary “out there” — it’s part of every speaker’s intuitive knowledge of language and we aim at making this knowledge visible through linguistic analysis. This course will provide you with basic tools of sentence analysis and will enable you to describe and analyze English sentences on your own. You will learn to classify words (nouns, verbs, determiners, adverbs etc.) and phrases (Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases etc.) and to give visual representations of the structure of clauses (so-called “tree diagrams”). You will learn about functions in the clause (subjects, objects, predicates, etc.) and about syntactic operations that target specific functions (e.g., passivization, question formation, focalization). One of the main points will be to develop an understanding of the relationship between word order, structure, and meaning in English. In a group project of your choice you will have the opportunity to explore a common myth about language, such as the belief that babies acquire language by imitation or that English spelling is “kattastroffik”. The methods of analysis you acquire in this class will be applicable in a variety of ways in your study of literature, creative writing, English education, English as a second language, and further studies in Linguistics.

English 315: English Phonology

This course offers an introduction to the sound system of English, including phonetics and elementary phonology. Topics include articulatory phonetic descriptions of consonants and vowels, classical phonemic theory, the nature of phonological processes, linguistic change and the acquisition of phonological systems. By the end of the course, students should be able to describe and transcribe speech sounds of English, recognize and describe phonemic and phono tactic patterns and account for basic phonological processes.

Note: English 315 (or consent of the instructor) is a prerequisite for English 709 (Advanced English Phonology)

English 316: English Language Variation in the U.S.

The course introduces the student to linguistic investigations of both regional and social varieties of present day American English. The course also deals with the nature of past and present language contact situations in the United States. It is intended that the student attain a knowledge of the features which distinguish language varieties as well as of the causes of variation and the contribution of such variation to linguistic change.

English 318: Second Language Acquisition

This course is a general introduction to scientific research into how people learn a second language. Although the course is designed to be accessible to students from a wide variety of backgrounds, some knowledge of the linguistic structure of English will be assumed. Second language acquisition, or SLA, is a theoretical and experimental field of study which, like first language acquisition studies, looks at the phenomenon of language development — in this case the acquisition of a second language. The term “second” includes “foreign” and “third”, “fourth” (etc.). Since the early nineteen seventies, SLA researchers have been attempting to describe and explain the behavior and developing systems of children and adults learning a new language. The dominant aim behind this research is to extend our understanding of the complex processes and mechanisms that drive language acquisition. By virtue of the fact that language itself is complex, SLA has become a broadly-based field and it now involves:

  • Studying the complex pragmatic interactions between learners, and between learners and native speakers
  • Examining how non-native language ability develops, stabilizes, and undergoes attrition (forgetting, loss)
  • Carrying out a highly technical analysis and interpretation of all aspects of learner language with the help of current linguistic theory
  • Developing theories that are specific to the field of SLA that aim to account for the many facets of non-native behavior
  • Testing hypotheses to explain second language behavior
  • The goal of SLA is to understand how learners learn and it is not the same as research into language teaching

However, applied linguists whose particular interest is in facilitating the language learning process should find ways of interpreting relevant SLA research in ways that will benefit the language teacher. SLA, in this light, should become an essential point of reference for those involved in educational activities and researchers looking at how to facilitate the learning process.

Note: English 333 (or consent of the instructor) is a prerequisite for English 715.

English 414: The Global Spread of English

In this course, we’ll examine the linguistic, social, and political impact of the spread of English around the world. Through readings, discussion, and engagement in conversations with guest speakers, we will critically consider the role and development of English in various world contexts—e.g., Morocco, Turkey, Switzerland, Tanzania, India, Singapore, France, Brazil, and others—and the issues surrounding the presence of English. Some of the questions we will address include: at what age do people start studying English? How is it taught? Is it a language confined to the elite, or is it more widespread? What model of English is promoted? Is English influencing local languages, and if so, how? Is there public debate about the impact of English—on the local culture and values, on people’s access to literacy, on economic factors, on the country’s future? While we will study English in various countries, we will consider as well topics which transcend geography, such as English on the Internet, and English as an agent in the spread of American popular culture.

English 415: Introduction to TESOL Methods

This course is an introductory survey of methods of teaching English as a second or foreign language, with a focus on theory and rationale, and techniques and materials. Emphasis will be on developing your ability to critically evaluate methods and materials, as well as familiarizing you with current issues in the teaching of ESL or other second or foreign languages.

Note: English 334 (and consent of the instructor) is a prerequisite for English 335 and 337.

English 416: English in Society

Language is one of the most powerful ways in which we attempt to influence others. Whether we realize it or not, the way we use language tells other people a lot about who we are: whether we are cool or dorky, a fan of the Green Bay Packers or the Philadelphia Eagles, a high school student or a graduate student, honest and trustworthy or sly and shifty. And our impressions of other people are based in large part on the way they speak and write. In this course we explore ways in which the English language is used to create, maintain, and challenge social relationships. We survey the ways in which English varies across the United States, across social classes, and across ethnic groups. We reflect on the prejudices that are associated with different varieties of English, and we consider the role of teachers and schools in creating, maintaining, and challenging prejudice.

We will use two approaches to examine the relationship between English and society: linguistics and conversation analysis. The tools of linguistics involve close analysis of the structure of language, especially its sound patterns, grammatical structures, and the ways in which words are formed, distributed, and used. And in this course we will analyze in detail the ways that formal properties of language connect with what people value about speakers. But the forms of language are neither rigid nor fixed, and just as our impression of a person can change within the space of one conversation, so the ways that language is used in interaction vary from moment to moment. Understanding the dynamics of talk in interaction involves going beyond the traditional concerns of linguistic analysis to the methods of conversation analysis. Both formal linguistics analysis and conversation analysis will be methods that we use in this course.

If we realize that talk is fluid and changing, this understanding helps us to recognize that the identities that we construct for ourselves and in which we cast others are not fixed. We will argue in this course that identities are fragmented and in flux, and that there is a close relationship between identities and the contexts in which they are constructed, and distinguish the contradictions inherent in identities.

Finally, we recognize that language is a means by which powerful people influence our thoughts and behavior. So we explore the application of linguistic knowledge in understanding the powerful influences of politicians and the media in the hope that by understanding how they influence us we can make more lucid life choices.

In this course you will become familiar with the specific structures, features, and discourse patterns of English that have been associated with social interaction. Analysis of specific instances of language in use is central to this course.

English 417: History of the English Language

This course traces the ways in which English has changed from its earliest beginnings to changes that are still occurring in the present day. The initial focus is on systematic internal linguistic change (phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and the lexicon). As the course progresses increasing weight will be given to external factors which spotlight how political and cultural factors arising from languages in contact have affected English at various periods in history. You will learn how to evaluate what has changed, and how it has changed. You will also learn why language has changed by considering the complex interplay of linguistic and social influences.

English 419: Gender and Language

Cross-listed with Women’s Studies, English 419 is designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates interested in an open-minded exploration of the social construction of gender and how gender relates to language. We look at the representation and enactment of gender in forms of language in different communities and groups and in different cultural events. Readings question our taken-for-granted understandings of language and gender. In your term projects, I encourage you to combine analysis and activism.

English 420: Topics in English Language and Linguistics (Topics Vary)

Sample Topic: Linguistic Perspectives on the Study of Words in English

Words arbitrary pairs of form (sound, gesture, writing) and meaning and rules of combination (syntax) are the two structural building blocks of language. This course looks at the category “word” in English from different linguistic perspectives: While syntax is mainly concerned with words as parts of speech, morphology analyzes the internal structure of words (stems and affixes) and processes of word formation (derivation, inflection, compounding). We will study why some forms are impossible (“hopefulness” vs. *”hopenessful”) and others irregular (is the plural of computer mouse “mouses” or “mice”?). From a psycholinguistic perspective we will examine what the difference between regular forms and irregular forms means for the acquisition and processing of words and how words are stored in the mental dictionary. We will also look at historical and current influences on English vocabulary and spelling and at dictionaries as a source of standardization. We will have our own “a word a day” newsletter in this class, in which you can share linguistic facts about your favorite quirky words with others.

English 514: English Syntax

This class is a twofold extension of “The Structure of English” (English 324): We will combine the analysis of sentences with an in-depth exploration of a particular theoretical framework, the Principles & Parameters approach to syntactic analysis, introduced by Noam Chomsky. Both data and analysis will be more complex than in the basic “Structure of English” course. For instance, we will look at infinitives (how do you know that in “He promised her to leave” he is the one who is leaving and that in “He persuaded her to leave” she is the one who’s leaving?), relative clauses, resultatives and particle verbs, and will contrast the generative approach with a traditional, more descriptively oriented analysis. One of the questions to be pursued is why certain structures are acceptable (grammatical) in English, while others – which look very similar on the surface – are not, compare “It was expected that he would leave” vs. *”It was expected him to leave”. Each student will write a report-like paper on one particular construction, the so-called “construction portrait”. Towards the end of the semester we will discuss the relevance of these principles to issues in first and second language acquisition.

Note: English 329 (or consent of the instructor) is a prerequisite for English 708 and English 906.

English 515: Techniques and Materials for TESOL

This course offers supervised practice in the application of techniques and materials in the teaching of English as a second language, including teaching and video-taped sessions. Note: English 335 counts towards the TESOL certificate. It does not count towards the M.A. degree in Applied English Linguistics. English 335 and 337 (or their equivalents) are required before a student can be appointed Teaching Assistant in the ESL program.

English 516: English Grammar in Use

It is through spoken interaction (or through manual signing) that humans first learn language, and it is through interaction that we establish and maintain our social lives. Being an expert in English, or any language, means understanding the structuring of language in the everyday lives of its users. If using language is central to your work, you will want to cultivate your knowledge of and curiosity about language in use, along with your confidence and skill in its analysis. In this class we explore grammar in interaction: grammar in its natural habitat of use. In English 324, or another introductory course in linguistics, you have already practiced analyzing the structures of sentences; in English 325 we move into the realm of everyday talk to discover the order in ordinary language use. To support a cross-linguistic perspective on human language, our readings include studies of interaction in diverse languages, and for analytic assignments, students may choose to use languages other than English. Grading is based on analytic exercises, class preparation (as reflected in general discussions and in small group tasks), and exams (midterm and final). Graduate students with on-going research projects may obtain permission to work on that research for course credit on an individual basis.

English 613-618: TESOL Workshops

These are practical modular workshops on key aspects of language teaching, stressing the application of techniques and theory to classroom needs. Rotating topics include teaching of reading, writing, oral skills, pronunciation, grammar, and assessment. Note: English 337 counts towards the TESOL certificate, it does not count towards the M.A. degree in Applied English Linguistics. English 335 and 337 (or their equivalents) are required before a student can be appointed Teaching Assistant in the ESL program.

English 708: Advanced English Syntax

This class familiarizes students with competing approaches to syntactic phenomena in English. It discusses developments in representing syntactic structures, which include the rise of functional categories, the relationship between morphology and syntax, the “linking” or “mapping” of lexical information onto syntax, and the relevance of “constructions” and construction-specific rules. The focus of this class is on syntactic argumentation and on comparing different approaches to the same question. Readings include classic as well as more recent articles from scholarly journals.

English 709: Advanced English Phonology

This course discusses problems of English segmental and suprasegmental phonology, including morphophonemic alternations and stress assignment.

English 710: Interaction Analysis: Talk as Social Organization

This course provides a practice-intensive introduction to the craft of analyzing language as social action. Each class will have required background readings, and class sessions will include focused attention to spoken interaction. We will attend to turn construction, turn taking, collaborative courses of action, the interactional emergence of stories, and the local construction of (and resistance to) categories, relationships, and institutional structures.

English 711: Research Methods in Applied Linguistics

This course is designed to prepare graduate students in second language acquisition and other branches of applied linguistics to critically evaluate published research in their field and to design their own research studies. It is divided into two parts. In the first part, we will discuss and compare qualitative and quantitative approaches to the design of research studies in applied linguistics. Topics to be covered include deciding on a paradigm, stating a purpose for the study, identifying the research questions and hypotheses, using theory, and defining and stating the significance of the study. In the second part of the course, we will concentrate on quantitative research methods and develop skills in applying statistics to research problems. Topics to be covered include: describing variables, constructing research designs, coding and displaying frequency data, describing interval and ordinal values, locating scores and finding scales in a distribution, probability and hypothesis testing procedures.

The course will introduce the main concepts of research in applied linguistics, and aims to make you comfortable with critically reading research studies in the field. If you intend to use statistics in your own research, then I advise you to take an in-depth and hands-on treatment of statistics in education. Consider taking the series of two courses offered in the Department of Educational Psychology: 760 and 761, Statistical Methods Applied to Education I and II.

English 713: Topics in Contemporary English Linguistics

This course offers an intensive research and peer support experience for advanced graduate students (Ph.D. students and advanced M.A. students in English linguistics or related fields in other departments). Students explore and share with one another their chosen areas of interest in linguistics and applied linguistics, with the goals of preparing for cross-field examinations, preparing research proposals, and developing research projects and publishable research papers. 713 is student-centered, with input and guidance from the English Linguistics faculty. While the course is required for Ph.D. students in English Language and Linguistics, motivated and engaged students from all related disciplines are invited to join the course: second language acquisition, rhetoric/composition, linguistics, communicative disorders, curriculum and instruction, educational psychology, psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Note that 713 students regularly explore linguistic issues in languages other than English, and interdisciplinarity is celebrated.

During our first few meetings, we will develop a friendly but serious seminar environment. Students will choose and commit to a goal for the semester. Goals may include developing research begun in other courses, engaging in a literature review, and/or writing a research paper that supports preparation for a comprehensive examination.

English 715: Advanced Second Language Acquisition

Designed for advanced students of second language acquisition and foreign language pedagogy, this course focuses on the social and psychological processes of learning a second language in the classroom. The topic was introduced briefly in English 333, and in this advanced course we will ask and attempt to answer two basic questions: How is talk organized in a second language classroom? And how does the organization of classroom talk affect second language learning? Our approach to answering those questions will be within two contemporary theories: Conversation Analysis and Sociocultural Theory.Students in this course will prepare seminar presentations from the readings, and will design and carry out a research project on the organization of talk in a second or foreign language classroom.

English 905: Seminar in Applied English Linguistics (Topics Vary)

This is a graduate seminar for students in the English language and linguistics program, students pursuing the Ph.D. in second language acquisition, and interested doctoral students from other departments.

Sample topic (English 905): Interactional Competence

Interactional competence is a theory of communication that has its roots in linguistic anthropology. The theory explains the socio-cultural characteristics of discursive practices and the interactional processes by which discursive practices are co-constructed by participants. Discursive practices are the processes by which cultural meanings are produced and understood. Interactional competence is grounded in four insights concerning discourse. One is the affirmation that social realities are linguistically/discursively constructed. The second is the appreciation of the context-bound nature of discourse. The third is the idea of discourse as social action. The fourth is the understanding that meaning is negotiated in interaction, rather than being present once-and-for-all in our utterances.

The basis of interactional competence is the insistence that discourse is action and not merely representation. The analyst must attend constantly to what is being accomplished through the discourse. Instead of focusing on how things “really” are or should be, this approach attends to show how truth and morality are established, negotiated, maintained, and challenged in discourse. So, for example, the question of whether morality is absolute or culturally relative is put aside in favor of an analysis of how morality is invoked and negotiated in discourse.

In this seminar we will begin by investigating the social nature of language and interaction, and then spend several weeks describing the ways in which discursive practices are characterized using the methods of conversation analysis, systemic functional linguistics, and linguistic anthropology. We will then move on to investigate the question of learning and discuss theories of learning that argue that competence or expertise is not merely a property of individual cognition, but is distributed among participants in a discursive practice. An implication of this conception of distributed cognition is that social identities are constructed and performed within discourse communities and we will investigate how social identities and discourse communities are constructed through practices such as work-place negotiations, health-care consultations, and kindergarten classrooms. In the concluding weeks of the seminar, we will investigate how the concepts of interactional competence and discursive practice help us to appreciate language learning in a new and comprehensive light.

English 906: The English Language (Topics Vary)

This is a graduate seminar for students in the English language and linguistics program and interested graduate students from other departments. Topics vary, but the seminar generally focuses on an aspect of syntactic theory (like word order, the mapping of lexical semantics onto syntax, or the nature of grammatical categories/parts of speech) or a specific set of constructions in English grammar. The seminar is centered around critical discussions of classic and current articles. You will learn to put these articles in context and to compare and evaluate different analyses for the same construction. At the end of the semester, there will be a colloquium, for which each student will prepare a conference-like presentation on one aspect of the topic.