Program and Courses

Spring 2014

LING W4190y Discourse and Pragmatics 3 pts. Prerequisites: LING W3101 How discourse works, how language is used: oral vs. written modes of language, the structure of discourse, speech acts and speech genres, the expression of power, authenticity, and solidarity in discourse, dialogicity, pragmatics, mimesis. MW 2:40pm-3:55pm

LING G4206y Advanced Grammar and Grammars 3 pts. Prerequisites: LING W3101 An investigation of the possible types of grammatical phenomena (argument structure, tense/aspect/mood, relative clauses, classifiers and deixis). This typological approach is enriched by the reading of actual grammars of languages from Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas.  M 6:10pm-9:00pm

ANTH V1009y (Section 01) Introduction to Language and Culture 3 pts.  Introduction to the study of the production, interpretation, and reproduction of social meanings as expressed through language. In exploring language in relation to culture and society, the focus is on how communication informs and transforms the sociocultural environment. TR 10:10-11:25

COMS W4705x Natural Language Processing 3 pts. Lect: 3. Prerequisites: COMS W3134W3136, or W3137, or the instructor’s permission. Computational approaches to natural language generation and understanding. Recommended preparation: some previous or concurrent exposure to AI or Machine Learning. Topics include information extraction, summarization, machine translation, dialogue systems, and emotional speech. Particular attention is given to robust techniques that can handle understanding and generation for the large amounts of text on the Web or in other large corpora. Programming exercises in several of these areas.

AMST W3931y Language Contact 4 pts. This course will explore the results of language mixture, as demonstrated on the North American continent as well as beyond. All human languages are hybrids to an extent, but post-Neolithic technological developments have made population movement ever more common, resulting in mixture between peoples and the languages they speak. The result has been a panorama of language mixtures of a kind rare to nonexistent before roughly ten thousand years ago, including what are called creoles, pidgins, koines, “vehicular” languages, and nonstandard dialects that straddle the boundary between these categories. Such languages are usually felt as new and/or illegitimate, such that they have had various fates in the media and education, and also occasion vigorous controversies even as to their origins. This seminar will explore America’s — and the world’s — newest, and in some ways most interesting, languages. T 12:00pm-2:00pm

Spring 2013

Ling W4108y:  Language History3 pts.  Alan Timberlake.  Prerequisite:  Ling W3101  or equivalent.  How language changes, firstly, as a self-contained system that changes organically and autonomously, and secondly, in time, space, and communities.  // TR 6:10pm–7:25pm

Hung W3343yDescriptive Grammar of Hungarian.  3 pts. Carol Rounds.  The study of Hungarian, a language of the Finno-Ugric family, offers the opportunity to learn about the phonology of vowel harmony, the syntax of topic-comment discourse, verb agreement with subjects and objects, highly developed case systems and possessive nominal paradigms.  No knowledge of Hungarian required.  // TR 1:10–2:25pm 

American Studies W3931y:  Topics In American Studies, section 004:  Languages of America.  4 pts.  John H McWhorter.   The United States, often thought of as a nation where since its origins all foreign languages spoken by immigrants have withered away upon exposure to English, has actually always harbored a complex mixture of languages and dialects. This course will examine the history of language in America, including the robust role of German in colonial times and beyond (once as commonly heard in America as Spanish); creole languages such as Gullah, Louisiana Creole French and Hawaiian “Pidgin” English; Black English including its history and present; Native American languages and modern efforts to preserve them; and the history of Asian languages in modern America, including Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hmong. The course also serves, in ancillary fashion, as an introduction to the variety among languages of the world and to a scientific perspective on human language. // T11:00am–12:50am

NEW   Port W3335y:  Brazilian Portuguese Linguistics4 pts.  Ana Paula Huback.  This course presents the core concepts of linguistic theory and its application to the analysis of Brazilian Portuguese dialects.  Significant exposure (mainly oral) to the most relevant Brazilian Portuguese dialects will be required. Songs, video clips, personal interviews and written materials will be analyzed to identify the most distinguishable traits of the Brazilian Portuguese dialects with regards to pronunciation, morphological and syntactic variation. The topics of language variation will be related to social values that communities place upon specific dialects. This interaction between culture and linguistics will be an important piece of evidence to show the roots of social discrimination based on how people speak. Students from this course will have a greater understanding of how to use the language considering the various aspects of the social interaction, e.g. who is being addressed, in which social role, the impressions someone has about oneself and the person who is being addressed, the purpose of the communication (to convince, forge a friendship, complain, etc.), the media that will be used for the communication (written, spoken, and the specific contexts). As this course will focus on readings, discussions and tasks, several grammar aspects of the Portuguese language structure will also be covered, according to the needs that students show in their assignments and oral conversations. Grammar will not be the main focus of this course, but it will be addressed as errors are diagnosed in the tasks the students have to perform. // MW 4:10pm–5:25pm

PSYC G4470y:  Psychology & Neuropsychology of Language 4 pts. M. Miozzo.  Prerequisites: The instructor’s permission (a course in the psychology of language or linguistics highly recommended). This seminar surveys current theories of language production. We will examine psycholinguistic and neuroimaging studies of word and sentence production conducted with monolingual and bilingual speakers, and individuals with acquired language impairments.  // T 4:10pm — 6:00pm 405 SCHERMERHORN HALL

Fall 2012

Ling W3101x:  Introduction to Linguistics.  3 pts.  John McWhorter.  Introduction to the study of language from a scientific point of view. // TR 4:10pm–5:25.

Ling W4202x:  Cognitive Linguistics. 3 pts.  Boris Gasparov.  Prerequisites: Ling W3101, previously or concurrently.  Reading and discussion of scholarly literature on the cognitive approach to language, including: usage-oriented approaches to language, frame semantics, construction grammar, theories of conceptual metaphor and mental spaces; alongside of experimental research on language acquisition, language memory, prototypical and analogous thinking, and the role of visual imagery in language processing.  //  MW 6:10pm–7:25pm

NEW (under review by COI) Ling W4307x:  Scripts of Asia and the World.  3 pts.  David Branner.  History and mechanics of the world’s two chief traditions of writing system: Semitic (ancestor of most of the world’s scripts) and Chinese. Topics include oral vs. written language and literate vs. oral societies; the glottography and ideography controversies; loangraphs and kundoku; the five types of script (non-phonetic logogram, phonogram, alphabet, abjad, abugida); writing as art form: typography and calligraphy; computational treatment of scripts and mathematical scripts. Major traditions examined in detail: Chinese and its derived writing systems; Brāhmī and Devanāgarī and their descendants; Hebrew, Arabic, and the Tungusic descendants of Aramaic.
// TR 8:40-9:55am , location tbd

Ling W4376x:  Phonetics and Phonology.  3 pts.  Alan Timberlake. Prerequisite: Ling W3101.  Technical investigation of the sounds of human language, from the perspective of phonetics (articulation and acoustics, including computer-aided acoustic analysis) and phonology (the distribution and function of sounds in individual languages).  // MW 4:10pm-5:25pm

Psyc W2440x. Language and the Brain.  3 pts. (#70576) M. Miozzo.  Prerequisites: PSYC W1001 or instructor permission [permission given to linguists]  Introduction to psychological research on human language and communication and to brain mechanisms supporting language processing.  Topics include comprehension and production of speech sounds, words and sentences; reading and writing; bilingualism; communication behavior.  // TR 10:10-11:25am,  Room 614,  Schermerhorn Hall.

Spring 2013

Anth V3906y:  Functional Linguistics & Linguistic Typology.  4 pts.  Paul Kockelman.
This course introduces students to functional linguistics and language typology.  Functional linguistics involves describing, classifying and phonology, explaining the relation between linguistic form (e.g. various grammatical patterns embodied in morphology, and syntax) and linguistic function (e.g. the ends communicative utterances serve and the meanings grammatical categories encode).  Language typology involves describing and comparing the forms and functions of the world’s languages in order to uncover, classify and explain cross-linguistic patterns. //W 11:00am-12:50pm

Ling W4108y:  Language History3 pts.  Alan Timberlake.
This course examines how language changes, firstly, as a self-contained system that changes organically and autonomously, and secondly, in time, space, and in communities.  Prerequisite:  Introduction to Linguistics (Ling W3101) or equivalent  // MW 6:10pm-7:25pm

Hung W3343Descriptive Grammar of Hungarian.   3 pts. Carol Rounds.  The study of Hungarian, a language of the Finno-Ugric family, offers the opportunity to learn about the phonology of vowel harmony, the syntax of topic-comment discourse, verb agreement with subjects and objects, highly developed case systems and possessive nominal paradigms.  No knowledge of Hungarian required.   // TR `1:10­2:5pm 

Fall 2011

LING W3101 Introduction (McWhorter or Gasparov)

LING W4190 Discourse (Gasparov)

LING (?) (NEW) Field Methods (new course, pending funding for adjunct)

Spring 2012

LING W4903 Syntax (Timberlake)

LING W4800 Language and Society (Timberlake or McWhorter)

Majors and Concentrations
I have discussed petitions for majors with a handful of students, and I have written the COI about some of them.  If you have applied for (or are in the process of constructing a petition to apply for) a Major, could you please tell me, so your petition does not slip through the cracks?  March 1 was the deadline for declaration of majors, but that deadline is not firm.  But we must get everything done by spring break, I hope by this coming Monday (March 7).

Changes in your major programs:  in your original petition you were  expected to list all courses you wish to count for the major and state when you will take this or that course.  But of course our staffing changes and the courses we offer change, and sometimes other valuable courses appear.  I need to hear from you if courses you thought of taking do not appear and you need to substitute courses.  If your program is thoroughly changed, we need to inform COI and get approval.  If the change is minor, then there is no need.  Still, I would like to be kept abreast of changes.

In that vein, I would also like to hear about other changes in your programs—adding or deleting other majors or concentrations.  Strictly speaking, once a major in Linguistics has been approved, its status will not change if you add or delete another degree program (major or concentration); the Linguistics major is not affected by other changes.  But as part of responsible advising, I would like to hear about changes.

Language Requirement, Global Core
As a general rule, one course cannot be used in two degree programs—for example, a course in Natural Language processing can be used either for a major or concentration in Computer Science or in Linguistics, but not in both.

Language requirements are different.  The same language can be used to satisfy the College’s general language requirement and the language requirement for a Concentration or Major in Linguistics.

I am not sure about courses in global cultures, now being revamped.  I am thinking of offering one in Spring 2012 (possibly co-opting McWhorter’s course on Language and Society); I will find out if such a course can count both for Linguistics and for Core.  I think so, but I’m not sure.

FLAS fellowships:
FLAS (=Foreign Language and Area Studies) fellowships are funded by the federal government for US citizens and green-card holders.

The deadline for applying for FLAS fellowships is March 4.   These fellowships used to be available only to graduates, but the fellowships have been opened up to undergraduates.

FLASes are normally awarded for critical languages and “less commonly taught languages.”   The list is actually quite long.  It includes almost all languages taught at Columbia.  French, Spanish, and German are excluded.  (Russian and Italian are  doubtful.  I am not sure about how likely Chinese is.)  The website says that FLASes are not awarded to beginning students, so in fact you have to already have started studying the language.  Applications are made to a common destination, but then applications are judged by committees run by different area centers.

Information for undergraduates can be found as  HYPERLINK “”, although that site sends students for more information to the graduate site,  HYPERLINK “”

I hope the Society will continue its magnificent record of interesting talks and interesting dinners.  For that we will need some juniors or sophomores to make themselves available to replace the irreplaceable Liz and Kayla.  (Which is to say, thanks.)


3 Responses

  1. I realize that Columbia used to have a major in linguistics in the 1980’s, but was then removed. Would anyone happen to know why?

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