Linguistics 101: Introduction to the Study of Language (Fall 2008)

Course information

Lecture Times TuTh 11am-12:20pm
Lecture Location CENTR 212
Section Time Tu 10am-10:50am
Section Location WLH 2112
Class webpage

Instructor information

Instructor Roger Levy (
Instructor's office AP&M 4220
Instructor's office hours Thursdays 2:15-4:15
Teaching Assistants (TAs) Rebecca Colavin ( and Dan Michel (
TA's office Rebecca: Monday 10am-11:45am; Dan: Friday 11am-11:50am
TA's office hours Rebecca: AP&M 3331A; Dan: AP&M 3331E

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, tenth edition. It is required that you purchase this textbook — it is available at the bookstore. In addition, there is one copy on reserve at Geisel and one copy on reserve at the Linguistics Department Language Lab & Library (AP&M 3432), but don't rely solely on these — buy your own. 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.


You are required to have an Interwrite PRS RF clicker and bring it to class regularly. We will have brief pop quizzes on the course material at various points during lectures, and a small percent of your grade will be based on your participation in these quizzes. (You won't be graded based on your performance on the quizzes; you get full credit so long as you participate.) 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 0 25 Sep Class Introduction & Phonetics 1: introduction & articulatory phonetics Files 1.0-1.6, 2.0-2.1 Beginning of Class Survey (WebCT)
Week 1 30 Sep Phonetics 2: English consonants and vowels Files 2.2-2.3 Homework 1 goes out
2 Oct Phonetics 3: sounds of the world's languages File 2.4, Powerpoint Slides
Week 2 7 Oct Phonetics 4: suprasegmental features; acoustic phonetics Files 2.5-2.6
9 Oct Phonology 1: phonemes and allophones; Files 3.0-3.2 Homework 1 due, Homework 2 goes out
Week 3 14 Oct Phonology 2: phonological rules; Files 3.3 & 3.5
16 Oct Phonology 3: syllables; foreign accents; phonology problems
Week 4 21 Oct Morphology 1: derivation vs. inflection; free vs. bound morphemes; morpholgical processes Files 4.0-4.2 Homework 2 due, Homework 3 goes out
23 Oct Morphology 2: hierarchical structure within words; morphological types of languages; morphology problems Files 4.3 & 4.5
Week 5 28 Oct Syntax 1: word order, lexical categories, agreement, constituency, grammatical roles (lecture by Rebecca Colavin) Files 5.0-5.3 Homework 3 due
30 Oct Syntax 2: phrase structure (lecture by Dan Michel) File 5.4
Week 6 4 Nov Syntax 3: Word order typology; consituency tests; syntax problems Files 5.5 & 5.6 Homework 4 goes out
6 Nov Midterm Exam! (covers phonetics through syntax)
Week 7 11 Nov Veteran's Day, no class
13 Nov Semantics 1: Introdution to semantics, lexical semantics Files 6.0-6.3 Homework 4 due, Homework 5 goes out
Week 8 18 Nov Semantics 2: Compositional Semantics Files 6.4-6.5
20 Nov Pragmatics 1: Language in Context, Rules of Conversation Files 7.0-7.2 Homework 5 due, Homework 6 goes out
Week 9 25 Nov Pragmatics 2: Speech Acts & Presupposition Files 7.3-7.5
27 Nov Thanksgiving Day, no class
Week 10 2 Dec Language Change Chapter 12, Language Reconstruction Handout Homework 6 due out
4 Dec Wrap up language change, and review for final!
Finals 10 Dec Final Exam—11:30 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.

Examples of academic integrity violations

Here are some examples of academic integrity violations. DO NOT DO THESE!!!

This is not an exhaustive list — please read the UCSD Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and use your common sense!

Requirements & grading

Your grade will be based on six criteria:

1. Participation in clicker-based pop quizzes during lectures will be worth 3% of your grade. As long as you participate in 80% of these quizzes, you will earn full credit for this 3%.

2. 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 42% of your grade (i.e., 7% for each assignment).

3. A midterm on Tuesday 4 November (21% of your grade).

4. A final exam on Wednesday 10 December, 11:30 (30% of your grade).

5. 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 3 December, 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 December 2, 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.

6. 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 42% of your grade from homework will be derived from the rest of your homeworks.

Regrading/correction policy

We all make mistakes—TAs and professors as well as students—so please do look over your returned homeworks and tests, and compare them to the answer keys that are distributed. In addition to helping ensure that you get the credit you deserve, this checking will improve your retention of the material. However, there is a statute of limitations: all grading mistakes must be brought to our attention within one week of the distribution of the answer key to the homework or test. This prevents us from getting a backlog of corrections at the end of the quarter, which would interfere with the time-consuming activities of putting together a good final exam and grading it as accurately as possible. Thank you in advance for your cooperation!


There is a FAQ (list of frequently asked questions & their answers) for the course.