Linguistics/Anthropology 150: course syllabus

Dr. Stan Whitley, 531 Greene Hall, Wake Forest University
(336) 758-5362; email, office hours: ___________

Note: This course is doubly listed as Lin. 150 and Ant. 150, but is the same class, given in both the fall and spring semesters. It satisfies the WFU “CD” (cultural diversity) requirement, and, under the Ant. 150 designation, it simultaneously counts as a Division IV (Social Science) requirement.

Course goals

1. to survey the many forms of language and explore the basis for its underlying unity.
2. to learn how to describe usage, pinpoint differences, and discover patterns and rules in data.
3. to apply the concepts of modern linguistics to social, cultural, and educational issues involving language.


None in particular. A knowledge of other languages is always helpful for for sharing observations and comparing different languages, but no particular languages other than English are presupposed.


1. O'Grady et al.: Contemporary Linguistics: an Introduction. 6th edition (St. Martin's Press).
2.Vanderweide: Study Guide, Contemporary Linguistics. (St. Martin's Press).

There will also be numerous handouts for class and homework. Always bring those handouts and the primary textbook to class with you; the Study Guide is for out-of-class practice. In addition, for two topics we will be using readings from Wikipedia.

Course Plan

The course is organized into three parts, each followed by an exam. The following plan, for fall 2010, shows what we will be discussing in class each day and the material that you prepare before that session. Note that many chapters also have an Appendix with good suggestions, as well as a Key Terms list to review. (Definitions are in the Glossary at the back of the book.) We generally follow the book’s sequence, except with Ch. 9 Ch. 15, and 18 (online).

Part I: the nature of language; its sounds, words, and other building blocks.
Aug. 25: introduction to the course: linguistics as the science of language
Aug. 27: Ch. 1: preview: language as a special kind of knowledge
Aug. 30: Ch. 2 (through §5.7), phonetics: the articulation of sound; consonants
Sept. 1: Ch. 2 (through §7), phonetics: vowels and glides
Sept. 3: Ch. 2 (through §9), phonetics: stress, pitch, and phonetic processes
Sept. 6: Ch. 2 (§10, and go to the book’s website as instructed for continuation of this topic), phonetics: other vowels and consonants; more on coarticulation
Sept. 8: Ch. 3 (through §3.1), phonology: phonemes, allophones, and phonological analysis
Sept. 10:  Ch. 3 (through §5), phonology: syllable structure and phonotactics; features.
Sept. 13:  Ch. 3 (through §6.4), phonology: processes and rules of pronunciation
Sept. 15:  Ch. 3 (review whole chapter), phonology: review of theory and what it seeks to account for
Sept. 17: Ch. 4 (through §3), morphology: morphemes and word formation
Sept. 20: Ch. 4 (through §5), morphology: inflection – learning those endings.
Sept. 22: Ch. 4 (through §6). morphophonemics; review; introduction to syntax

Part II: sentence structure and meaning, and language change
Sept. 24: Ch. 5 (through §2.3): word categories and rules for sentences
Sept. 27: First Exam (on Part I of the course)
Sept. 29: Ch. 5 (through §3.4), syntax: deep and surface structure; transformations like “Move”
Oct. 1: Ch. 5 (through §4.1) syntax: more on transformations; parameters for variation in syntax
Oct. 4: Ch. 5 (through §5.3), syntax: other constructions
Oct.6: Ch. 6 (through §2.4), semantics: word meaning
Oct. 8: Ch. 9 Amerindian (indigenous American) languages
Oct. 11: Ch. 6 (through §4.4), semantics: sentence meaning; pragmatics: meaning in context
Oct. 13: Special reading: handout. conclusion of pragmatics; linguistic fieldwork.
(Oct. 15:  WFU fall break)
Oct. 18:  discussion: language, culture, and thought. (previous material, + Wikipedia: “Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis”)
Oct. 20: Ch. 7 (through §3.5), language change: sounds and morphology; how change spreads.
Oct. 22: Ch. 7 (through §5.3), language change: syntax and vocabulary
Oct. 25: Ch. 7 (through §8), language change: how we reconstruct prehistoric languages
Oct. 27: Ch. 8. language classification, and a world tour of language families.

Part III: different kinds of "language" — how they're learned and used.
Oct. 29: Ch. 15, language without sound: paralanguage and the sign language of the deaf
Nov. 1: Second Exam (on Part II of the course)
Nov. 3:  Ch. 10 (through §4.3): acquisition of language: phonology, vocabulary, morphology
Nov. 5: Ch. 10 (§6.5): acquisition of language: syntax; debates on how children learn language
Nov. 8:  Ch. 11: second language acquisition: how (and how well) do adults learn a second language?
Nov. 10: Ch. 12: psycholinguistics: how we process language.
Nov. 12: Ch. 13: neurolinguistics: language in the brain.
Nov. 15: Ch. 14 (through §4.3), sociolinguistics: dialect variation
Nov. 17: Ch. 14 (through §6.4), sociolinguistics: contact languages; effects of class, ethnicity, and gender
Nov. 19: Ch. 14 (through §8), sociolinguistics: interaction, attitudes, and conflict
Nov. 22: Ch. 16: writing and its history.
(Nov. 24-28: Thanksgiving break)
Nov. 30: Ch. 18 (online at book’s website): animal communication: Do animals have language?
Dec. 1: Ch. 17: language and computers; introduction to language origin
Dec. 3: special topic: language origin, and what it shows about us as a species (prepare: Wikipedia: “Origin of Language” and “Mythical Origins of Language”)
Dec. 11: 9:00-12:00 Third Exam (focusing on Part III of the course). This is the officially assigned time for this exam; it will not be changed. The term paper is also due then. No further work will be accepted afterwards.

Learning Opportunities

1. lab practice
        A recording of listening exercises has been made for the Phonetics/Phonology segment of the course (Ch.2-3), with an accompanying script to follow along with (distributed as a handout in class). This audio practice is essential. On your computer, go to the Language Resource Center site:
and click on Lin 150 under “Electronic Classes.” Do it in portions for each group of sounds we take up in class.
2. website practice
        As explained in preface, this book comes with a very  robust website at:
As part of your reading for each chapter, regularly check out this website’s additional information and practice.
3. the Study Guide
        This is likewise for out-of-class practice, with good, practical explanations and exercises. Ordinarily, I will not make specific assignments in it; when we start, say, Ch. 2, I’ll assume you’re also doing the Study Guide exercises for that chapter too. The big advantage that these are self-checking: there’s an answer key for you in the back.
4. homework and classwork
        A vital part of the daily work for this course is thorough preparation of the assigned reading in the book(s) as well as review of recent material. During class, I build on what you’ve already read about, help you apply it, and presuppose it in discussion. In addition, there will be several exercises, some to prepare for class discussion and others for turning in; these will help you develop analytical skills tested on the exams.
5. outside reading
        Linguistics is a big field, with a lot of works published on each of its topics. Wikipedia has a lot of good summaries of topics we’ll study (good for rounding out your understanding of them), and is required reading for two sessions. The textbook writers mention some good primary sources (see Sources beginning on p. 643)  you might want to follow up on if a topic interests you, and you’ll eventually need to start some research for your  term paper (explained below). Go to the library’s website,
Then click on “Library Catalog” or, to search for works on a topic through the MLA (Modern Language Association) Bibliography, click on “Electronic Databases.”
5. fellow students, and your prof
        Talking about the material is a great way to learn it as you explain and defend your views with other students. (But note that collaboration is not allowed on any written work turned in.) And whether you need help with something or have an interesting idea you'd like to discuss, feel free to drop into my office to chat, except right before class (when I tend to be a bit hyper getting everything ready).


        There are three exams as scheduled on the syllabus, and you will receive a study guide outlining each one with sample questions. You have the full period (55 min. on the first 2 exams, three hours on the last one) for each test, but then time is called. If you must miss an exam, a makeup is available if  (1) you directly notify me, with a valid excuse, before exam time, and (2) make up the missed exam as soon as you can return to class.
        In addition, each class session (except test days) starts with a daily evaluation, a brief (about 2 minutes) comprehension check of about 4 questions to check your progress and prepare you for exams. It covers major points in recent material and especially in the new material assigned for the day. The grade is simply the number right, plus one point for attendance throughout the period. (Thus, if you get 3 right out of 4 and are present for the whole session, the grade is 4.) There are no make-ups for daily evaluations since the purpose is to gauge your preparation at that point for notions to be expanded on in class; it’s the homework and exams that check your comprehension after we’ve worked on the material. (But, with so many daily evaluations, a zero for one or two of them is a mere drop in the bucket, and is easily compensated for by extra effort and higher scores on subsequent daily evaluations.) At the end of the course, your daily evaluation point total (e.g., “3+5+2+Ø+4... = ___”) is converted to a grade relative to the overall class distribution.

Course Grade

60% the 3 exams (20% each)

20% daily evaluations (10%) and exercises and homework (10%)

20% term paper project

Scale: 93–100=A, 90–92 = A-, 88–89=B+, 83–87=B, 80–82=B-, 78–79=C+, 73–77=C, 70–72=C-, 68–69=D+, 63–67=D, 60–62=D-, <60=F. We adhere to WFU’s grade definitions in the Bulletin: A=exceptionally high achievement; A-, B+, B = superior; B-, C+, C = satisfactory; C-, D, D+ = passing but unsatisfactory; F = failure; I = incomplete (available only under the terms outlined by the WFU Bulletin).

The midterm grade is advisory only, and is based on your major work up to that point.

Term Paper Project

To apply the material to an area of your own interest, you will write a term paper of about 7-10 pp. (word-processed, double-spaced, standard margins), due on the day of the final exam. Don't rush to start it now; linguistics is likely to be a new subject for you and the course will survey a lot of interesting issues that will inspire you later. The paper should be one of the following types (although other proposals are possible; check with me):

1. A contrastive analysis of English and some other language you know something about. A contrastive analysis describes a given subsystem of two languages and, using data, analyzes similarities and differences, often with projections or explanations of the problems that students of one will have in learning the other.

Examples of areas for contrastive analysis:

•the vowel or consonant systems of the two languages;

•their stress and/or pitch (intonation) patterns;

•the inflectional system of their verbs (or nouns, or...)

•a set of related structures in their syntax, such as question formation or sentence structure;

•a portion (“semantic field”) of their vocabulary systems and differences of meaning.

This kind of project often attracts language students and future teachers, and it requires access to data from the language(s) — books or articles and from your own knowledge of the two (or use of an informant).

2. A study of an idea or issue. After researching (articles, books) a subject or question concerning language, you summarize what you have learned in a kind of critical review. The textbook lists promising works at the end of each chapter ("For Recommended Reading"), and the bibliography in any such book or article leads to other relevant readings. A great deal has been written on language in books and journals, and the master source is the MLA Bibliography (see above instructions on how to access it). The WFU library has some works on linguistics, but there are gaps in its holdings, so one limiting factor is what you can get sufficient sources for.

Examples of topics:

•a question/issue in language and society (or culture, or education, or computer technology....)

•the history of a certain idea — different viewpoints, controversies, growth of consensus

•a kind of biography of an important figure in language and his/her views on linguistic issues.

For either type of paper (a language analysis, or a study of an idea), note the following points:

In an introductory course, you aren’t expected to come up with an original discovery on a professional level (although that would be nice). But you are expected (a) to apply what we’ve studied to your treatment of the topic, (b) to pursue it in more depth than was possible in class, and (c) to show evidence of your own library research on the topic.

NOTE: For special information on writing papers about language, see “Writing Papers” at my website (link at end of this electronic syllabus). And at the same site, for typing foreign characters and phonetic symbols in homework or papers, click on Foreign symbols: typing them on your computer. If you’re unfamiliar with how to install a font, bring your computer to me during office hours and I’ll guide you through it.

Miscellaneous advice and policies

1. Never hesitate to bring your questions, problems, and ideas to me. One-on-one talks give us a chance to discuss points that interest you in particular when there wasn't enough time in class.

2. “Practice makes perfect,” “use it or lose it”: the more you practice material and apply it, the better you learn it. Note the reference materials available: the glossary (terms and definitions) in the back of the book, its charts and tables as well as those in the Supplement.

3. We abide by the WFU Honor System in this course; academic dishonesty is not tolerated, and will be handled according to the policies in the catalog and student handbook. Note that any work submitted in this course for a grade (including turn-in homework) must be your own individual effort.

4. We all have our bad days. When obligations pile up, some students wonder whether to come to class since they may be late, blow the daily evaluation, and ruin their image as a model Wake Student. But come anyway. In a survey course like this one, each session goes through a whole subject area or even chapter. If you miss class, you do not miss a lectured recapitulation of the book, but sounds that are modeled and practiced, techniques that are demonstrated, audiovisual examples of important concepts, discussions of issues, etc. — none of which may appear in notes borrowed from a friend. Coming late or unprepared is always better than completely missing out on what we do in class.

5. All work to be turned in should be printed out on paper, never emailed. (My department won’t pay to print it out.) Always identify your name and the assignment (e.g., “textbook p. 35, exercise F”); don’t make me guess who wrote it and what they were working on. Work counts as on time if turned in to me or slipped under my office door before 5:00 pm on the day for which it’s assigned; if it arrives later, it’s still accepted but the grade is lowered slightly since (presumably) you were able to spend more time on it than other students. Homework may be wordprocessed or handwritten (if legible), but when it’s more than one page, always staple the pages together; don’t ever use a clip or fold corners back:

  6. I’m glad to answer simple, brief questions by email (e.g., “What’s the homework?”); but for more complicated questions requiring interaction and discussion (e.g., “How can I find out more about language acquisition?”, or “I don’t understand this chapter.” or “How can I improve my daily evaluations?”), please come and see me in my office or after class.

7. In Greene Hall classrooms, there’s no smoking, eating, drinking, gum-chewing, spitting, barfing, or anything else that can mess up the nice carpets and furniture. Also, make sure you turn off all your electronic sound-making devices (beepers, cell phones, iPods, radios, alarms, air horns, etc.) before entering class.

8. If you have a documented disability or condition that can affect your performance in this course, especially on timed exams, please see me as soon as possible about any special accommodations that are needed.

9. I use computer projection in class to illustrate the material. If you likewise wish to use your laptop to take notes, that’s OK (but note preceding comment about turning off sound). But I cannot release my PowerPoints; they contain copyrighted material that “educational fair use” allows as a teaching aid but not for public distribution. (And besides, the crucial diagrams and examples are found in the textbook or supplement anyway.)

For more on linguistics

The WFU minor in linguistics is a valuable addition to majors in English and foreign languages, anthropology and other social sciences, and similar areas. The interdisciplinary faculty committee on linguistics hopes to offer more courses on specific areas depending on student interest. See me or our website, for more information on courses, and also on further study and career options in language and linguistics.