LIGN 101: Introduction to Linguistics (Summer 2011)

Tuesdays and Thursdays 
AP&M 5420

Course website:


Kathryn Davidson

Office Hours: Tuesday 3:30-4:30, and by appointment in AP&M 3331A

Course Description

This is a course 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 class.

From the course 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.

We'll spend some time learning about the following core topics of linguistics:
  • Morphology: how words are formed from smaller units of meaning
  • Syntax: how words come together to form sentences
  • Semantics: how we extract meaning from sentences
  • Pragmatics: how we acquire meaning from context and sentences
  • Phonetics: what sounds make up human language
  • Phonology: how our brain categorizes the sounds (or signs!) we hear (or see!)
We will also discuss some of the major contributions coming from historical-, social-, and neuro- linguistics, as well as psychology and sign language studies.

Since this class is both smaller in class size and in number of total weeks, it will cover the same material as full-quarter LIGN 101 in a slightly different way: more class discussion and interaction, less overall assignments, and more reading per week. 



book cover

Additional Readings

Additional readings may be posted here throughout the course, and will be announced in class as well.

Please note that different editions of our textbook vary quite a bit- you'll want the 9th edition for this class. There should be one copy on reserve in the Language Lab (3rd floor of AP&M). You're welcome to use this copies to read, but this is a class that involves frequent reading assignments which will form the basis of many of our class discussions, and the book is the primary reference material for class, plus exercises are from the book, so you will probably find it useful to have your own copy of the textbook.

Course Details and Policies

This course will cover the same material as a typical 10 week quarter LIGN 101 course, but in only 5 weeks. Is it therefore *very important* that you allow for some time (at least 2-3 hours) between each class (even between Tues and Thurs!) in which you can do readings and exercises to prepare for the next class. I will be available for extra help in office hours when you get stuck, but there are no sections, so part of your responsibility for this class is to devote time to LIGN 101 outside of the instruction hours.

Final Grades will be calculated as follows:

  • 20% In-class participation based on readings (2 points per class meeting)
  • 20% Short assignments (5% each)
  • 20% Midterm Exam
  • 40% Final Exam (30% material from last half of class, 10% material from first half of class)
  • Up to 2 extra credit percent points for participating in psychology/linguistics/cognitive science experiments on Experimetrix. If you do not want to participate, you can talk to me about an option for a research paper instead. 
Class participation grade will be based on being prepared each class day to discuss (a) one thing you liked about the reading (b) one thing you didn't like about the reading, and (c) one question you have about the reading. Coming to class prepared with these points will help you stay motivated and attentive while reading, will keep our time in class focused on discussions that are the most helpful for everyone, and is also a great way to force yourself to read critically.

Short assignments will be available 6 days before they are due, must be turned in at the beginning of class, and will be graded as a way to prepare you for the exercises and problems that will be on the exams. You are free to work with classmates on these assignments, but if so you MUST credit your collaborators by name somewhere on the assignment. Everyone should turn in their own assignments, even if you do work together. 

If you miss a class, you can make up one day's participation points by participating for 2 credits in Experimetrix, as mentioned above (or alternatively, writing a research paper). If you do not miss a class, any of your Experimetrix credit (up to 2% points) will be added as bonus to your final grade.

Finally, both material from the book and material from class will be fair game for the exams, but the focus of the exams will be on the overlap between the book and class.

Please take some time to read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship. I will be conducting this course in full accordance with this policy. In particular, any suspected cheating or plagiarism in the course must be taken very seriously and reported to UCSD's Office of the Academic Integrity Coordinator, in accordance with UCSD policy. Please note that it is not at my discretion whether or not to report instances of academic dishonesty: I am obligated by UCSD policy to report such instances.

Here are some examples of academic integrity violations:

  • Copying from or looking on to a neighbor's exam or notes during an exam
  • Copying a friend's homework assignment or working together and not crediting your collaborators
  • Changing a graded homework assignment or exam and returning it for a regrade
  • Giving a false reason for missing an exam or turning in an assignment late

This is not an exhaustive list — please use your common sense.

The schedule below outlines a tentative syllabus. It may (and is likely to) change; please revisit this site throughout the course for the most updated information.

    Course Schedule

    Week Date Topic Readings Assignments
    1 Tue Jun 28
    Class Introduction

    What is linguistics? 
    Grammaticality: Prescriptive vs. descriptive grammar, native speaker judgements and field methods, Universal Grammar, some history of linguistics 
    Textbook Ch. 1, p 3-21

    Optional Readings
    Pullum, from the Chronicle of Higher Ed

    Pinker, from his book The Language Instinct (in Docs)
    Thu Jun 30
    Morphemes (free vs. bound, open vs. closed classes, inflectional vs. derivational), affixes across languages, roots and stems, morphological structure, identifying morphemes in words of other languages
    Textbook Ch. 3  
    2 Tue Jul 05 Syntax 
    Syntactic categories (N, V, P, D), constituency tests, phrase structure rules and phrase structure trees, recursion, ambiguity
    Textbook Ch. 4, p 117-150 Assignment 1 due:

    Pg. 39: Exercises #5, #10;  Pg. 109: Exercises #2, #3, #4, #9
    Thu Jul 07
    Semantics and Pragmatics
    Word meaning and sentence meaning, ambiguity, tautologies, contradictions, entailment and implicature
    Textbook Ch. 5, p 179-199 and 207-217  
    3 Tue Jul 12
    Animal Communication
    Can animals talk? Why or why not?

    Language and Thought
    Does our language affect how we think?

    Review and discussion for midterm
    Textbook Ch. 1, p 21-35

    Optional Readings

    (you need to be on campus or on the UCSD VPN)
    Related video: here)

    TED talk video of Steven Pinker
    Assignment 2 due:

    Pg. 170: 
    Exercises #4 Part B, #8 a&c, #10, #12 a-c; 
    Pg. 219: 
    Exercises #1B, #2 a-i, #4
    Thu Jul 14
    Midterm exam

    Spelling versus the IPA, the sounds of the world's languages
    Textbook Ch. 6, p 229-234 Study for Midterm
    4 Tue Jul 19 Phonetics
    Articulatory Phonetics (Place and manner)

    Phonemes and allophones
    Textbook Ch. 6, p235-260  
    Thu Jul 21 Phonology 
    Morphophonemic rules, Phonological rules, prosody, syllable structure
    Textbook Ch. 7 Assignment 3 due:

    Pg. 262: 
    Exercises #5 a-j, #6 a-j, #9 a-f, #11 a-f
    5 Tue Jul 26
    Language Variation and Language Change
    Pidgins and Creoles, Why do we have dialects, how is some language "clean" or "dirty", and how do languages change?
    Textbook Ch. 10

    Textbook Ch. 11, p 488-495
    Thu Jul 28
    Language Acquisition

    Language in the Brain
    Where and how does the brain process language, experimental techniques
    (Guest speaker: Naja Ferjan Ramirez)

    Review for final

    Extra Office Hour: 4-5pm, AP&M 3331A
    Textbook Ch. 8, p324-332, 357-369

    Textbook Ch. 2, p43-65

    Assignment 4 due

    Pg. 310:
    Exercises #4, #10, #11
    Pg. 481:
    #3 (ok if you stop at 'groovy', bonus beyond that), #5
    Pg. 534:
    #6 (only guess the languages if you want to)
    Sat Jul 30 Final Exam, 11:30am-2:20pm 
    Location: HSS 1106A
      Study for Final