The Department of Linguistics offers several courses open to students with no previous training in the field. These courses provide a general introduction to the subject matter and technical methods of linguistics, both for students who do not plan to major in Linguistics and for prospective majors.
Students with no previous background in linguistics are encouraged to approach the field by taking a freshman seminar or a 100-level course. The current 100-level courses are the following.
We all know that languages have different regional dialects, and American English is no exception. But what are the dialects of American English, and how are they determined? Does every town have its own dialect, or are there broader patterns across larger regions? Are the patterns different for different demographic categories? Are there different dialect regions depending on gender? Race? How do we know where one dialect region stops and another begins? It turns out that there is no one answer to these questions. Moreover, the answers we find depend greatly on what aspect of language we are looking at. This hands-on seminar explores different ways of visualizing how language varies across geographical space, with a focus on dialect variation. Students study recent research discussing new techniques for analyzing geographic patterns of linguistic variation, and apply those techniques to survey data collected in recent years by the Yale Grammatical Diversity Project. Students develop their own mapping projects based on these data, and discover novel ways to visualize and analyze regional dialect variation. The course involves an introduction to some basic concepts in linguistics, as well as an introduction to Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.
The goals and methods of linguistics. Basic concepts in phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Techniques of linguistic analysis and construction of linguistic models. Trends in modern linguistics. The relation of linguistics to psychology, logic, and other disciplines.
Introduction to the inner workings and prehistory of the Indo-European languages both as a language family and in its individual branches. Emphasis is on using the theoretical framework obtained by this knowledge, especially through practical applications for readers of ancient languages such as Greek, Latin, Hittite, Sanskrit, Avestan, and Middle Persian.
Prerequisite: some knowledge of at least one ancient Indo-European language, such as Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit.
The structure of linguistic knowledge and how it is used during communication. The principles that guide the acquisition of this system by children learning their first language, by children learning language in unusual circumstances (heritage speakers, sign languages) and adults learning a second language, bilingual speakers. The processing of language in real-time. Psychological traits that impact language learning and language use.
Introduction to language change and language history. Types of change that a language undergoes over time: sound change, analogy, syntactic and semantic change, borrowing. Techniques for recovering earlier linguistic stages: philology, internal reconstruction, the comparative method. The role of language contact in language change. Evidence from language in prehistory.
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.
An introduction to linguistics through the lens of gender. Topics include: gender as constructed through language; language variation as conditioned by gender and sexuality within and between languages across the world; real and perceived differences between male and female speech; language and (non)binarity; gender and noun class systems in language; pronouns and identity; role of language in encoding, reflecting, or reinforcing social attitudes and behavior.