How Language Works

Spring 2015 quarter

Taught by

linguistics, mathematics

What do you know when you know a language? How do you get that knowledge? Are there properties that all languages share? How do languages change over time? Why are half of the world's languages now under threat of extinction?

We will consider these questions and others through the lens of linguistics. We will study the sound systems of languages (phonetics and phonology), the structure and meaning of sentences (semantics and syntax) and the mysteries of word formation (morphology). We will discuss ways in which languages change and interact with societal structures (sociolinguistics), the nature of language life cycles and the process of language acquisition. We will look at the grammar of English as well as less-known languages from different parts of the world. Through the course of the program students will learn a variety of conceptual and empirical techniques, from analyzing speech sounds to calculating aspects of linguistic meaning to identifying conditions associated with language change and loss in human societies.

This program will be an intensive examination of topics requiring a significant amount of reading as well as regular problem sets and essays.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

linguistics, communication and education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30101
So - Sr (16 credits): 30104

Go to to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

Contact Academic Advising for help in answering your questions, planning your future and solving problems.