Linguistics

Exterior of Widener Library

The Department of Linguistics emphasizes the inseparability of theoretical and empirical work, and the interrelatedness of diachronic and synchronic approaches to the study of language. The courses offered place an emphasis on linguistic theory, historical linguistics, and the cognitive aspects related to language. Undergraduates may pursue a Concentration or Secondary Fields in Language Theory and Language Structure, Language and Linguistic Theory, and Language, Mind and Brain.

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Gennaro Chierchia

Gateway Courses

Spring 2022

LING 83: Language, Sturcture, and Cognition
Adam Singerman

What do the world's almost 7,000 languages have in common? Why do they show recurrent commonalities and principled differences? What do they reveal about the human ability for speaking and thinking? How do languages develop? How do they die? This course addresses these and related questions while introducing the languages of the world; their distribution, recurrent structural properties, and genetic classification; processes of language contact; and the relationship between language and the brain.

LING 102: Sentence Structure
Susanne Wurmbrand

What determines how the words in a sentence are put together in a given language? This course introduces the field of syntax, and the study of order and structure among words. Students will learn to construct and evaluate syntactic analyses and argumentation and will be exposed to variation and universals in the syntactic patterns found in natural languages. The course will also provide an introductory survey of syntactic phenomena, including question formation, the passive, anaphora, and agreement.

LING 106: Knowledge of Meaning
Yagmur Sag-Parvardeh

This course is an introduction to the field of natural language semantics, which is a branch of linguistics concerned with meaning. What does it mean to know the meaning of a sentence? How do different parts of a sentence compose to form a sentence meaning? We will start by looking at sentence-level meanings and relations between them. Then, we will investigate how the meanings of sentence-internal elements (like verbs, subjects, and adjectives) are composed to form sentence meanings. During the process, we will cover some formal tools that allow us to talk about language in a precise way: set theory, propositional logic, predicate logic, and lambda notation. We will consider how the formal tools apply (and not apply) to natural languages and discuss how we can achieve a more comprehensive understanding of meaning.