LIGN 101: Introduction to the Study of Language (Fall 2015)

TuTh 2:00–3:20pm

Course website:


Eric Baković (Professor)

/ phone: 858-822-3206

Office Hours: We 2:00-3:00pm, Th 11:30-12:30pm in AP&M 4151

Nina Semushina (TA)

Office Hours: Tu 3:30-4:30pm in AP&M 3351C

Discussion sections: We 4:00-4:50; Fr 4:00-4:50pm; SSB 106

Anna Mai (TA)

Office Hours: Tu 12:45-1:45; Fr 11:00am-12:00pm in AP&M 3351C

Course Description

Course catalog description

Language is what makes us human, but how does it work? This course focuses on speech sounds and sound patterns, how words are formed, organized into sentences, and understood, how language changes, and how it is learned.

Who this course is for

Students considering a major or minor in Linguistics, students planning to take an advanced course in Linguistics at UCSD, or anyone who is interested in learning more about the scientific study of language. There are no prerequisites for this course.

What this course is about

This course is an introduction to linguistics, the scientific study of human language. In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, David Crystal (1987) writes:

"Linguistics shares with other sciences a concern to be objective, systematic, consistent, and explicit in its account of language. Like other sciences, it aims to collect data, test hypotheses, devise models, and construct theories."

Like any other natural phenomenon, human language is amenable to rigorous scientific investigation. Linguists formulate hypotheses about why language behaves the way it does, and then test these hypotheses using a variety of data sources: naturally occurring speech within a given speech community, adult speakers' intuitions about their native language, patterns of child language use and acquisition, patterns of language breakdown or impairment (e.g., due to stroke), experimental studies of language production, perception, and comprehension, neural imaging studies, and computational simulations.

What you will learn in this course

We'll spend most of our time learning about the following core areas of study in linguistics: phonetics (what speech sounds consist of), phonology (how speech sounds pattern together), morphology (how words are structured), syntax (how phrases and sentences are structured), semantics (how meaning is structured), and pragmatics (how meaning is affected by context). Other areas that we will learn about include psycholinguistics (how language is acquired, stored, and processed), sociolinguistics (how languages vary), and historical linguistics (how languages change).

By the end of this course you should have learned the basics of all six core areas of study in linguistics, and understand the interfaces of linguistics to related fields through the later topics in the course. Some of the specific abilities that you should come away from this course with include a rudimentary ability to read and write using the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and the ability to understand basic linguistic analysis of data from English as well as from other languages.



Additional Readings

The textbook has an associated website: Any additional readings will be made available on Ted, and will be announced in class as well.

Please note that different editions of our textbook vary quite a bit; you'll want the 11th edition for this course — this is the version that is available at the Bookstore and at the link above. Be careful if you decide to order it from another source! There are lots of (used copies of) older editions floating around, and we will strictly be using the 11th edition.

There will be one copy on reserve in the Linguistics Language Lab & Library (AP&M 3432) and another copy on reserve at Geisel Library. You're welcome to use one of these copies to read, but don't rely on these — please purchase your own copy of the textbook. We will have frequent reading assignments from the textbook which will form the basis of most of our class discussions, the textbook is the primary reference material for the course, and most of the homework exercises will come directly from the textbook.

Course Details and Policies

Ground rules

Principles of Community

We should all abide by the UC San Diego Principles of Community. This applies both in and out of class.

Devices in the classroom

The use of laptops, tablets, and cell phones is not permitted in this classroom. Electronic screens serve as a barrier between you and the instructor. Worse, they can be a terrible distraction to students sitting near you. If you are used to taking notes on your laptop or a tablet, please just bring traditional pen and paper instead, and then transfer your notes to your computer after class. (The extra time you take to do this will actually improve your retention of the subject material anyway.)

As a courtesy to others, please turn off and put away your devices and other noisemakers before coming to class.

Academic Integrity policy

Please take some time to read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. We will be conducting this course in full accordance with this policy. In particular, any suspected cheating or plagiarism in the course will be taken very seriously and investigated. If we determine that cheating or plagiarism has taken place, it will be reported to the Academic Integrity Office, in accordance with UCSD policy. Please note that it is not at our discretion whether or not to report instances of suspected academic dishonesty: we are obligated by UCSD policy to report such instances.

Here are some examples of academic integrity violations. DO NOT DO THESE!!!
  • Copying from or looking at a neighbor's exam during the midterm or final.
  • Copying someone else's homework assignment.
  • Changing a graded homework assignment or exam and returning it for a regrade.
  • Smuggling notes into a closed-book exam.
  • Finding the answer key to a homework assignment (e.g., on the web) and copying it.
  • Giving a false reason (e.g., death of a relative) for missing an exam or turning in an assignment late.
This is not an exhaustive list — please read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and use your common sense!

10 things we will value from you

This recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education says it pretty well. Give it a read and see.



Nina will offer two 50-minute sections a week (time and location listed further above). Section is not mandatory, but it is an ideal opportunity to delve more deeply into the course material and to address questions that for some reason or another were not able to be addressed in class. We strongly encourage you to attend a section if it fits your schedule.

Office hours

Eric, Nina, and Anna offer office hours at the times and locations listed further above. We encourage you to come to our office hours if you have any questions about the course. You can also try to make an appointment (in person or via email) with one of us if our office hours or sections aren't convenient for you for some good reason.

Note! Eric does not have office hours on the following Fridays: 10/9, 10/23, and 11/6.

Online resources

This syllabus will be maintained here, at

Otherwise, we will be using Ted (, aka Blackboard) for everything else: sharing course handouts, slides, and other notes, administering homework assignments and surveys, submission of research reports, etc. Most of you should be familiar with Ted/Blackboard from another class (in years past it was called WebCT); if you aren't, poke around at

As noted above, the textbook website is available at

Online communication

There will be a discussion forum on Ted for the topics covered in this class. If you have a question about course content that may be relevant to other students in the course, we strongly encourage you to post it to the discussion forum. We encourage you to read the discussion boards regularly, and to participate in them: if you have a question, ask it there, and if you think you know the answer to someone else's question, answer it! Active, positive contributions to the discussion forum will be given favorable consideration in determining final grades.

Private communications about other aspects of the course should be sent via email to any or all instructors (or, of course, discussed with one or more of us in person). Keep in mind that we all use email differently, so there's no guarantee that you'll get a reply immediately. (Eric, for example, only handles email once or twice a day, and never before 10am or after 5pm.) Please be patient, and politely follow up if more than 24 hours have gone by.

All of these communications must be courteous and respectful if you expect a response! We're happy to take time to help you with anything related to the course, but only if you are polite with your requests for that time — and acknowledge the time that we take to help you with a simple thank-you.

Often someone asks a question via email that would have been worth posting in the discussion forum instead, and that is thus worth passing on to other students in the course. Unless you request in advance that we not do this, we will likely (rephrase and) rebroadcast these questions, along with our answers, in the discussion forum. (In such a case, we will not rebroadcast the identity of the questioner.) Or, we may just ask that you do so yourself.


Attendance and participation (5% of your course grade)

The course consists of two obligatory lectures of 80 minutes each per week. Regular attendance in lecture is extremely important. The course material is unlikely to make much sense unless you attend class regularly. Don't miss class and don't be perpetually tardy unless you have a very good excuse (which you should tell us about in advance).

If you have to miss a class for any reason, don't expect a run-down of the class you missed from us. Find out what happened in class from the course website or from a classmate, look the material over carefully, and only then come to one of us with any remaining questions you may have. On the other hand, if you have something else to do during classtime, we'd all rather you just didn’t come to class. It's not doing you any good to waste your time in the classroom if you're not paying attention, and it's distracting to everyone else. It's OK if you occasionally have to arrive late, or to leave early — but when you do, please be sure to do it as discreetly as possible, without disruption.

You are required to have an i>Clicker and to bring it to class regularly. There are plenty of these clickers available for purchase at the Bookstore. Please be sure that you have one and that it is registered in Ted by the beginning of class on Thursday, October 1 (the end of Week 1).

Starting that day we will take attendance with the clicker, and 2% of your course grade will be based on your attendance record from that day forward. We will also have brief pop quizzes on the course material at various points during lectures, and 3% of your course grade will be based on your participation in these quizzes. (You won't be graded based on your performance on the quizzes; so long as you simply participate in 80% of these quizzes, you will earn full credit for this 3%.) 

Otherwise, interrupting (politely!) to ask questions is highly encouraged: please just raise your hand and we will call on you. Speak up, ask questions, confirm your understanding — but remember to give others a chance to do the same. In principle, each one of you deserves no more and no less than an equal share of time and attention. Take advantage of this, but try not to abuse it.

Reading (5% of your course grade)

Readings are to be done before the lecture for which they are assigned. Lectures will generally build on the material in the readings rather than recapitulate it, and will definitely go beyond that material in certain key respects. You will be lost if you don't read!

After every assigned reading, you are required to submit one well-formed question that is clearly related to the topic of the reading but that is equally clearly not addressed in the reading. So long as you make a good-faith effort to complete these simple reading completion assignments, you will earn full credit for this 5%.

Homework (35% of your course grade)

There will be eight short homework assignments to be completed roughly once a week (see Schedule below). These will mostly consist of a few true/false, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and/or short answer questions. Homework assignments will be distributed and submitted via Ted. The worst grade will be dropped, and each of the remaining seven will be worth 5% of your course grade.

A 1% course grade penalty will be assessed for any assignment submitted within 24 hours after the due date/time, and an additional 1% penalty for each 24-hour period thereafter (up to 5). Accommodations may occasionally be granted, but only if you provide documented proof of an emergency to Eric, preferably well in advance and definitely no later than the due date. Please do not make us ask you for this documentation — be prepared.

Exams (15% of your course grade for the midterm, 20% of your course grade for the final)

There will be an in-class midterm exam on Thursday, October 29, and a cumulative final exam during the regularly scheduled final exam period (Wednesday, December 9, 3:00pm — 6:00pm). Like homework assignments, exams will mostly consist of true/false, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and/or short answer questions.

If you are unable to be present for one of these two exams due to an emergency or other urgent matter, please inform us as soon as possible. Failure to do so will result in a zero grade for the exam. Given sufficient and reasonable notice, we will do our best to offer exam alternatives. Please note, however, that the alternative (if offered) will most likely be a one-on-one, spoken question-and-answer session with Eric rather than a make-up version of the written exam.

Research report (15% of your course grade)

You are required to submit one short research report (2000 words, or about 5 pages) on one of the core topics covered in the course (more specific guidelines to follow). After we complete discussion of a core topic, we will distribute a small set of suggestions for research reports (any deviations from these suggestions must be approved in writing and well in advance by Eric). Research reports will be due no later than 3 weeks after the suggestions are distributed (see Schedule below), and they are to be submitted via Ted.

As with regular homework assignments, a 1% course grade penalty will be assessed for any research report submitted within 24 hours after the due date/time, and an additional 1% penalty for each 24-hour period thereafter (up to 5 — after that, you will receive a zero grade for the report). Accommodations may occasionally be granted, but only if you provide documented proof of an emergency to Eric, preferably well in advance and definitely no later than the due date. Please do not make us ask you for this documentation — be prepared.

Experiment participation (5% of your course grade)

You are required to earn one credit for participation in an experiment via the Department of Psychology subject pool; for sign-up and details, visit There are several language-related experiments in which you can choose to participate, in addition to experiments in other areas of psychology and cognitive science. One credit is equal to approximately one hour of experiment participation. Do not wait until the last week to participate, there may not be experiments available! The last day to fulfill this requirement is the Wednesday before finals week. Get on it!

If you are opposed to experiment participation, you may write another, shorter research report (1500 words, or about 3-4 pages), otherwise following the same guidelines established above.

Extra credit (up to 3% added to your course grade)

You may earn 1% extra credit for each additional credit of experiment participation, up to three. Again, one credit is equal to approximately one hour of experiment participation.

And again, if you are opposed to experiment participation, you may write another, even shorter research report (1000 words, or about 2-3 pages), otherwise following the same guidelines established above. Note that this option is only available if you have also opted to write a second report instead of the otherwise required experiment participation.

Regrading/correction policy

We all make mistakes — TAs and professors as well as students — so please do look over your returned work. In addition to helping ensure that you get the credit you deserve, this checking will improve your retention of the material. However, there is a statute of limitations: all grading mistakes must be brought to our attention within one week of the original grade being recorded. Even then, grades will be changed only for plain errors; matters of judgment are final.

By asking for any of your work to be regraded you take on the risk that we will notice a problem that we had not noticed before and that we actually end up giving you a lower grade than you were originally awarded. So we encourage you to bring any necessary regrades to our attention, but for your own sake you should do so only when you're fairly confident that we really did give you less credit than you deserve. (For example, you may want to compare your work & grade with that of your classmates first.) Thank you in advance for your cooperation!

Course Schedule

Week Date Topic Readings Assignments Research reports
1 Thu Sep 24 Introduction to the course

2 Tue Sep 29 What is (the study of) language? Chapter 1 HW 1
(due Fr 10/2)

Thu Oct 01 Phonetic representation and articulation Files 2.0-2.4

3 Tue Oct 06 Acoustic phonetics File 2.6 HW 2
(due Fr 10/9)
(due Th 10/29)
Thu Oct 08 Phonological constraints, accents, and phonemes Files 3.0-3.2

4 Tue Oct 13 Phonological rules and implicational laws Files 3.3-3.4 HW 3
(due Fr 10/16)
(due Th 11/5)
Thu Oct 15 Word formation and morphological processes Files 4.0-4.2

5 Tue Oct 20 Morphological language types and hierarchical structure Files 4.3-4.4 HW 4
(due Fr 10/23)
(due Th 11/12)
Thu Oct 22 Phonological and morphological analysis Files 3.5 & 4.5

6 Tue Oct 27
Midterm Exam review
Midterm study guide

Thu Oct 29 Midterm Exam

7 Tue Nov 03 Syntactic properties and constituency Files 5.0-5.3

Thu Nov 05 Syntactic constituency, categories, and grammars Files 5.3-5.5 HW 5
(due Mo 11/9)
(due Fr 11/27)
8 Tue Nov 10 Lexical semantics Files 6.0-6.2

Thu Nov 12 Compositional semantics Files 6.3-6.4 HW 6
(due Mo 11/16)
(due Fr 12/4)
9 Tue Nov 17 Conversational maxims and inferences Files 7.0-7.3

Thu Nov 19 Inferences, speech acts, and presupposition Files 7.3-7.5 HW 7
(due Mo 11/23)
(due Fr 12/11)
10 Tue Nov 24 Language Variation Chapter 10

Thu Nov 26 Thanksgiving holiday — no class

11 Tue Dec 01 Language Attitudes (no reading) HW 8
(due Fr 12/4)

Thu Dec 03 Final Exam review
Final Exam study guide

12 Thu Dec 10 Final Exam, 3:00pm — 6:00pm