Introduction to Linguistics

  • Humanities 4
  • Anthropology 4

What is an introductory linguistics class about?

Language profoundly influences our everyday lives. We use it automatically for the better part of our time: talking, listening, reading, writing, in inner speech, and even in dreams. In this class, we will examine how exactly language works, and how the use of language affects our private and professional lives.

Understanding how language works enables us to make intelligent decisions about communication as individuals, members of families, workers, citizens, and participants in the global community.

The main objective of this course is to introduce you to the systematic study of human language. You will learn about the basic concepts and methods linguists use in order to analyze and study lan­guage. We will cover the main structural components of language -- sound system, word and sentence structure, meaning -- as well as many other areas of linguistic inquiry:

  • language processing in the brain
  • social & political aspects of language (power, gender, identity, dialects, ethnicity, media, etc.)
  • child language acquisition
  • language change over time
  • bilingualism and code-switching
  • language ideologies & language policies
  • sign languages
  • verbal vs. non-verbal communication
  • Creoles and Pidgins
  • endangered languages (language death, linguistics imperialism, linguistics hegemony, etc.)
  • language families (e.g., Spanish and Italian are sister language. Their mother was Latin.)
  • language typology (=the different types of languages spoken all over the world.)

While focusing on English we will also touch on many other languages of the world.

Language is a crucially important part of human existence, and therefore, linguistics interacts with many other fields of science (e.g., sociology, history, anthropology, neuroscience, education, child develop­ment, political science, psychology, philosophy, computer science, etc.)

Who should take Introduction to Linguistics?

Most people find language a fascinating subject. Language is arguably the human behavior that makes us unique in this world. Being able to communicate with one another in an efficient and nuanced way allows us to organize our societies, coordinate our activities, and arrange and manage our relationships with one another.

Language – written, spoken, signed - is the tool that enables us to record cultural and scientific information of all kinds in great detail, to share information with one another and to pass important knowledge down from one generation to the next: The kind of knowledge that you get when you hear your grandparents’ stories of the olden days, and the kind you receive when you read history books.

Some language remains the same through the centuries, such as the language in sacred texts, for instance, or the language of important legal documents. The U.S. Constitution is interpreted and discussed anew every time the Supreme Court renders a decision, so we can apply its meaning to the ever-changing circumstances of the fast-paced modern life style.

Other language changes very fast: slang is creative, funny, and people play with it continuously. We even play with our spelling system, for example when U TXT.

Language in literature, poetry, theatre and music is art and performance. Some texts are time-honored and old, others are waiting to be heard for the first time.

Language is the stuff of stories, grand and small, ancient and brand new, heroic, sad, uplifting, and funny, and everything in-between.

We are the talking species, the story-telling primates, the chatterboxes who shoot the breeze, write, email, text, call in order to connect with one another, to discuss issues, make plans, flirt, persuade, learn, console and make people laugh and cry.

If any of the above sounds interesting to you, then you should take Introduction to Linguistics.

What are the benefits of completing this course?

Most students enroll in this course as part of their general education and in order to satisfy some of the transfer requirements for the UCs and CSUs.

Students receive credit for this course either as Humanities 4 or as Anthropology 4, which count towards the IGETC in Area 3 - Arts And Humanities.

Introduction to Linguistics is required for students pursuing a Foreign Language Associate in Arts degree and Interdisciplinary Studies Associate in Arts at Delta College.

It is also required for students in the Speech Language Pathology Assistant program, and for students in Early Childhood Education

Many students in the Nursing Program find the course interesting and valuable as well.

For a more in-depth explanation of some of the subfields of linguistics, visit the UCLA Linguistics Department web page.

Course Materials on DocuShare