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"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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Summary Details


Query:   Linguistics Lite
Author:  Elizabeth Winkler
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   General Linguistics

Summary:   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 necessary.
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, gender,

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, bilingualism.

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.

LL Issue: 15.1143
Date Posted: 07-Apr-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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