Linguistics 101: Introduction to the Study of Language

Course information

Lecture Times MWF 10-10:50am
Lecture Location CENTR 109
Section Time Tu 11-11:50am
Section Location January 15: AP&M 2452; Future: Pepper Canyon Hall (PCYNH) 120
Class webpage

Instructor information

Instructor Roger Levy (
Instructor's office AP&M 4220
Instructor's office hours WF 2-3pm
Teaching Assistant (TA) Rebecca Colavin (
TA's office AP&M 3351E
TA's office hours MTu 9-10am

Course Description

This course is an introduction to the scientific study of language. The bulk of this course will involve covering the core areas of linguistic theory—phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics. The rest of the course will cover cross-cutting ways to study phenomena in these core areas, including the study of language in society (sociolinguistics), language change (historical linguistics), language and the mind & brain (psycholinguistics & neurolinguistics), language acquisition, computational linguistics, and practical applications of linguistics.

Intended Audience

Upper-division students and highly-motivated lower-division students interested in language. No previous exposure to linguistics is required.

Reading material

The textbook we're using is the Language Files. It is required that you purchase this textbook — it is available at the bookstore. There may occasionally be other readings assigned, as well. Please do the reading for each day before the lecture! You will not understand the material covered in lecture as well otherwise.


For some lectures we will be using Interwrite's PRS RF clicker. There are plenty of these clickers available for purchase at the bookstore. Please be sure that you have one by the start of the second week of class.


We will be using WebCT for administering homework assignments and various surveys, and as a discussion forum for all participants in the class. Most of you should be familiar with WebCT from another class; if you aren't, take a look at

Discussion boards

There will be discussion boards on the course WebCT site for the major 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 WebCT discussion board for this class. We encourage you to read the discussion boards regularly, and if you know the answer to a question, to post the answer! Active, positive contributions to the discussion boards will be given favorable consideration in determining final grades.

Syllabus (subject to modification)

Week Day Topic & Reading Materials Homework Assignments
Week 1 7 Jan Class Introduction Files 1.0-1.6 Beginning of Class Survey (WebCT)
9 Jan Phonetics 1: introduction & articulatory phonetics; English consonants Files 2.0-2.2 Homework 1 goes out
11 Jan Phonetics 2: English vowels File 2.3
Week 2 14 Jan Phonetics 3: sounds of the world's languages File 2.4, Powerpoint Slides
16 Jan Phonetics 4: suprasegmental; acoustic phonetics Files 2.5-2.6
18 Jan Phonology 1: phonemes and allophones Files 3.0-3.1 Homework 1 due, Homework 2 goes out
Week 3 21 Jan Martin Luther King Holiday, no class
23 Jan Phonology 2: phonological rules File 3.2
25 Jan Phonology 3: phonolotactic constraints; syllables; foreign accents; phonology problems Files 3.3 & 3.5
Week 4 28 Jan Morphology 1: derivation vs. inflection; free vs. bound (lecture by Rebecca Colavin) Files 4.0-4.1 Homework 3 goes out
30 Jan Morphology 2: morphological processes & hierarchal structure Files 4.2 & 4.4 Homework 2 due
1 Feb Morphology 3: morphological types of languages; morphology problems Files 4.3 & 4.5
Week 5 4 Feb Syntax 1: word order, lexical categories, agreement, constituency, grammatical roles (lecture by Rebecca Colavin) Files 5.0-5.2 Homework 4 goes out
6 Feb Syntax 2: identifying lexical categories; start phrase structure (lecture by Rebecca Colavin) Files 5.3 & 5.4 Homework 3 due
8 Feb Syntax 3: more phrase structure; word order typology Files 5.4 & 5.6
Week 6 11 Feb Syntax 4: tests for constituency; syntax problems (lecture by Rebecca Colavin) File 5.5
13 Feb Syntax 5: review constituency tests
15 Feb Midterm Exam! (covers phonetics through syntax) Homework 4 due
Week 7 18 Feb President's Day, no class
20 Feb Semantics 1 Files 6.0-6.2 Homework 5 goes out
22 Feb Semantics 2 Files 6.3-6.4
Week 8 25 Feb Semantics 3 File 6.5
27 Feb Pragmatics 1 Files 7.0-7.2 Homework 5 due, Homework 6 goes out
29 Feb Pragmatics 2 Files 7.3-7.4
Week 9 3 Mar Pragmatics 3 File 7.5
5 Mar Language in Society Chapter 10 Homework 6 due, Homework 7 goes out
7 Mar Language Change I Chapter 12
Week 10 10 Mar Language Change II Language Reconstruction Handout
12 Mar Practical Applications of Linguistics (why this is a great field!) & Review Chapter 16 Homework 7 due
14 Mar No class (Professor Levy out of town)—study for the final!
Finals 21 Mar Final Exam—8 am!!!

Instructor contact policy

Coming to talk to the instructor or TA during their office hours is highly encouraged. Electronic communications about course content should be made through the WebCT discussion board (see above). We ask that you use email contact only for communications that are not relevant to other students (e.g., specific learning circumstances or medical/personal emergency).

Academic Integrity

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 UCSD's Office of the Academic Integrity Coordinator, in accordance with UCSD policy. Please note that it is not at our discretion whether or not to report instances of academic dishonesty: we are obligated by UCSD policy to report such instances.

Requirements & grading

Your grade will be based on five criteria:

1. Seven homework assignments to be assigned throughout the quarter. We will drop your lowest score and keep the remaining six. These six assignments will be worth 45% of your grade (i.e., 7.5% for each assignment).

2. A midterm on Friday 15 February (21% of your grade).

3. A final exam on Friday 21 March, 8am (30% of your grade).

4. One of the two following options (4% of your grade; no extra credit for doing both!):

a. Participation in three hours of the Human Subject Pool ( each hour of participation counts as 1% of your grade, plus a 1% bonus for participation in all three hours. You are encouraged to participate in language-related experiments, and to participate in these experiments early—the last day for participation is March 12, and there is no guarantee that there will be experiment slots open for participation in the latest part of the quarter.

b. Writing a research paper (1000-1500 words) on some topic covered in the class. The due date for such a paper is March 3, and no late papers will be accepted. If you choose this option, you must discuss it with Professor Levy or his teaching assistant, Rebecca Colavin, before writing the paper and turning it in.

5. The following will be taken into consideration favorably when assessing borderline grade cases:

a. Regular attendance in class, having done the assigned readings beforehand, and active participation in class discussions;

b. Active participation in the optional section meetings;

c. Active participation in WebCT discussion lists, including (thoughtfully!) answering questions posed by other students.

Homework grading policy

Homework assignments may be turned in up to six days late, but they will be downgraded 10% per day. We will be posting homework solutions one week from the due date of each assignment.

Exceptions to the late-homework policy will only be granted for medical or personal emergencies, and the instructor or his TA must be notified as soon as possible (not several days after the emergency is over).

At the end of the quarter, we will drop your lowest-scoring homework assignment; the 45% of your grade from homework will be derived from the rest of your homeworks.