LINGUIST List 15.1143

Wed Apr 7 2004

Sum: Courses in "Linguistics Lite"

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Elizabeth Winkler, Linguistics Lite

Message 1: Linguistics Lite

Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004 12:25:19 -0400 (EDT)
From: Elizabeth Winkler <>
Subject: Linguistics Lite

RE: (Linguist 15.393)

A limited number of universities across the world are offering service
courses in linguistics sometimes called ''general education'' classes
that are for students from all the majors on campus. These are
distinct from traditional ''Introduction to Linguistics'' classes in
that they are often huge classes (300+) and are taught to first year
students who may have no concept what linguistics even is. The
commonly known introductory texts that are used for linguistics majors
or upper level students are generally inappropriate both from the
standpoint of density of the material and that they tend to lean more
towards theory than language in society. Therefore, I queried the list
to see what areas of linguistics are being covered by others who teach
this type of class and what texts/materials they were making use of.

In my own class (380 students!) I covered the following topics: what
is language, acquisition, animal communication, basic phonetics,
morphology and syntax, language variation and change, history of
English, African American Vernacular English, pidgins and creoles,
Chicano English and codeswitching. I had a class website where
readings for each topic could be accessed plus I used McWhorter's: The
Tower of Babel which either infuriated the students or got them
excited about something (either was good for class
discussion). However, this text alone is insufficient for getting
across the basics of linguistics, thus the website readings were

 Below are the contributions I received from others teaching this
type of class:

Thanks to: Judith Kaplan-Weinger, Chad Nilep, Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
and Shelley Tulloch.

Judith Kaplan-Weinger, Northeastern Illinois University. Used Napoli
book (see below) + extensive readings. Topics covered: Language and
thought, nonverbal communication, sign language, language learning,
animal communication, computers and language, dialects and attitudes,

Chad Nilep, Language in US Society: University of Colorado.

Taught it with no specific text but an extensive reading packet which
was available to the students on line.

Topics covered:

Language Acquisition, History of English, Language Change, Standard,
dialect, and variation, bilingualism, gender, identity, Native
American languages, language education, official English.

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, National University of Singapore. Used her own
text (see below). Topics covered: what is language, variation, human
speech sounds, grammar, meaning in action, language acquisition,

Shelley Tulloch, Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia,
Introduction to Human Communication. Topics incude: descriptive
vs. prescriptive approach, variation between languages, variation in
language use, the functions of language, i.e. in constructing power or
solidarity), debunking linguistic myths, showing how linguistics
applies to students' daily lives.

Possible Texts:

Donna Jo Napoli. 2003. Language Matters: A Guide to Everyday Thinking
About Language. Oxford University Press.

Cruz-Ferreira, Madalena. 2003. The Language of Language: Core Concepts
in Linguistic Analysis. Pearson: Prentice Hall.

McWhorter, John. The Power of Babel: A natural history of language.
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