Course offerings for the current semester are listed below. For more details on each of these courses, view the Yale Course Search. For a full listing of our past and regularly offered courses, see the Yale College Programs of Study.
Ling 104: Indigenous Languages of North America
This course explores the indigenous languages of North America, including their histories, linguistic properties, cultural settings, and the key social issues facing them in the 21st century.
North American indigenous languages show remarkable diversity in sound, structure, and social context, and each embodies a unique view of what it means to be human. Many different linguistic aspects of North American languages will be discussed, including the sound systems; person, number, gender and classification; the expression of time and space; and specialized grammatical phenomena like polysynthesis and reduplication. Social contexts of language will include performance, speech games, language change, language endangerment, and government policies.
Students will investigate and report on patterns and phenomena in a specific language, culminating in a final project and presentation that summarizes their research over the term. More generally, they will become familiar with basic concepts for studying human languages, appreciate the great diversity of indigenous languages in North America, talk with people who speak and study these languages, learn why and how these languages are endangered, and discover how indigenous communities are working to keep their languages alive.
Ling 106: Illusions of language
Introduction to linguistics, with special emphasis on sociolinguistics and psycholinguistics. Study of grammatical illusions: expressions the parser mistakenly accepts as grammatical despite making little sense and grammatical sentences which the parser has difficulty processing. Emphasis also on illusions and misconceptions about language, such as the belief that women speak more than men, that “vocal fry” can harm your voice, and that double negation is illogical.
Ling 116: Cognitive Science of Language
The study of language from the perspective of cognitive science. Exploration of mental structures that underlie the human ability to learn and process language, drawing on studies of normal and atypical language development and processing, brain imaging, neuropsychology, and computational modeling. Innate linguistic structure vs. determination by experience and culture; the relation between linguistic and nonlinguistic cognition in the domains of decision making, social cognition, and musical cognition; the degree to which language shapes perceptions of color, number, space, and gender.
Ling 200/600: Experimentation in Linguistics
Principles and techniques of experimental design and research in linguistics. Linguistic theory as the basis for framing experimental questions. The development of theoretically informed hypotheses, notions of control and confounds, human subject research, statistical analysis, data reporting, and dissemination.
Ling 211/611: Grammatical Diversity in U.S. English
Language as a system of mental rules, governing the sound, form, and meaning system. The (impossible) distinction between language and dialect. The scientific study of standard and non-standard varieties. Social attitudes toward prestige and other varieties; linguistic prejudice. Focus on morpho-syntactic variation in North-American English: alternative passives (“The car needs washed”), personal datives (“I need me a new printer”), negative inversion (“Don’t nobody want to ride the bus”), “drama SO” (“I am SO not going to study tonight”).
Ling 213/613: Hybrid Grammars: Dynamics of Language Contact, Acquisition, and Change
Traditional approaches to language acquisition and change have typically assumed that children develop a mental grammar that replicates uniformly the linguistic knowledge of the current members of their monolingual speech communities. Therefore, language change must result from external factors: language contact involving a cohort of L2-learners. Likewise, multilingualism, thus language contact, is commonly assumed to hinder acquisition, and presupposed ‘intense’ contact situations are regarded as propitious for creolization. This course proposes a shift of perspective, focusing on multiple-varieties ecologies such as creole societies in which speakers-listeners can acquire, alternate between, and sometimes ‘mix’ different languages, dialects, or registers. Two major questions are addressed in this course: How does acquisition proceed in such multiple-varieties ecologies? and What does a theory of the multilingual mind tell us about acquisition of L1 and the emergence of grammars?
Familiarity with syntax and linguistic variation is assumed.
Ling 220/620: General Phonetics
Investigation of possible ways to describe the speech sounds of human languages. Acoustics and physiology of speech; computer synthesis of speech; practical exercises in producing and transcribing sounds.
Ling 231/631: Neurolinguistics
The study of language as a cognitive neuroscience. The interaction between linguistic theory and neurological evidence from brain damage, degenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), mental illness (e.g., schizophrenia), neuroimaging, and neurophysiology. The connection of language as a neurocognitive system to other systems such as memory and music.
Ling 235/635: Phonological Theory
Topics in the architecture of a theory of sound structure. Motivations for replacing a system of ordered rules with a system of ranked constraints. Optimality theory: universals, violability, constraint types and their interactions. Interaction of phonology and morphology, as well as the relationship of phonological theory to language acquisition and learnability. Opacity, lexical phonology, and serial versions of optimality theory.
Ling 241/641: Field Methods
Principles of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics applied to the collection and interpretation of novel linguistic data. Data are collected and analyzed by the class as a group, working directly with a speaker of a relatively undocumented language.
Ling 254/654: Syntax II
Recent developments in the principles and parameters approach to syntactic theory. In-depth exploration of theoretical and empirical issues in long-distance dependencies (island effects, dependency types, movement vs. binding), the character of syntactic structure (constituency, thematic mapping, functional categories), and the architecture of grammatical derivations (logical form, operations for structure building, anaphora).
Prerequisite: LING 253.
Ling 281/681: Comparative Syntax: A View from Kwa (Niger-Congo)
This course adopts a micro-comparative perspective by looking at closely related languages (i.e., Gbe and Kwa families of Niger Congo) as well as a macro-comparative perspective that situates these languages in the larger context of typologically and genetically unrelated languages (e.g., Romance, Germanic). We set the stage by first looking at word formation, word classes, and the role of tones at the morphosyntactic level. Building on this, the first part of the course discusses topics such as Tense, Mood, Aspect (TMA) expressions, word order variation (e.g., VO vs. OV patterns), serial verb constructions, restructuring, and the notion of ‘light verb.’ These topics establish a profile of the clause structure in these languages. With this knowledge at hand, the second part of this course addresses the question of information structure and the commonly assumed parallelism between the CP and DP domains. The descriptive framework adopted in this course is the Cartographic Approach developed by Rizzi (1997), Cinque (1999), Aboh (2004), and much related work. Some background in syntax is assumed.
Ling 344/744: Topics in Phonology: Prosody-Syntax Structure Correspondence
This course explores how languages organize sounds into domains arranged within a hierarchical structure. Research over the past 40 years has shown that this prosodic structure often matches syntactic structure, but mismatches can arise due to phonological pressures. We examine several theories of the relationship between syntactic and prosodic structure by discussing primary literature and data from a range of languages. The course culminates in an original research paper on a topic chosen by the student.
Ling 351/751: Na-Dene languages
This course explores the Na-Dene (Dene-Eyak-Tlingit) family of indigenous languages of North America, which includes languages from Alaska (e.g. Tlingit), northern Canada (e.g. Dëne Sųłiné), western Canada (e.g. Dakelh), Oregon (e.g. Tolowa), California (e.g. Hupa), and the American southwest (e.g. Navajo). Topics addressed include historical and comparative research, phonology, morphology and syntax, and semantics, as well as some intersections between language and culture in the family. Students investigate and report on patterns and phenomena that are documented across multiple languages in the family, culminating in a final presentation and paper that summarize their research over the term.
Ling 392/792: From Morpho-Syntax to Meaning: Definiteness, Indefiniteness, Genericity
This course explores how individual languages encode the notions of definiteness, indefiniteness and genericity, and whether it is possible to predict such meanings when overt morpho-syntactic cues are absent. Languages with and without definite/indefinite articles provide critical test cases. Students read primary semantic literature on each of these three topics to get a solid grounding in the theoretical issues surrounding them. They also evaluate how empirical discoveries from different languages have shaped our understanding of the connection between morpho-syntax and semantics. The broader question considered here is the possibility of a restrictive theory of cross-linguistic variation in the interpretation of nominals.
Prerequisite: LING 263 or permission of instructor.
Ling 491: The Senior Essay
Research and writing of the senior essay under the guidance of a faculty adviser. Students present research related to their essays in a weekly colloquium.
Prerequisite: LING 490.