Course Descriptions

CAS LX 500 Topics in Linguistics

Topics vary by semester and may include:

Number. Number is sometimes defined as the category marking the opposition between singular and plural. This greatly underestimates its role in the grammar. This course examines number systems in a variety of languages from morphological, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic perspectives.
Language Acquisition. A general introduction to the study of first and second language acquisition within the framework of generative grammar, focused on the development of syntax. Topics include: the status and development of functional categories, verb-movement, finiteness, null subjects, binding, and questions.
Mood and Modality. Modality expresses the possibility or necessity of a situation: ‘John may/must be at home.’ This course investigates types of modality and ways in which modality is encoded in the grammar in mood and modal systems across languages.
Acquisition of Semantics and Pragmatics. How does a child acquire an adult grammar, and the ability to interpret words and complex phrases? This course examines the acquisition of meaning, both the literal meaning of words and phrases and their implied meaning in conversation.
Questions. Exploration of a central issue in theoretical linguistics, the typology of question formation across languages, from several perspectives. Syntactic universals and variation, semantic interpretation and discourse effects, and intonational effects will be brought to bear in developing a theoretical understanding.
Focus. Exploration of linguistic focus from several perspectives. Developing a theoretical understanding of how languages signal focus through syntax and intonation, and how focus interacts with semantics and pragmatics, we examine how diverse aspects of language knowledge interact as a system.
Negation. An examination of the diverse strategies for expressing negation in natural languages (cf. not, no one, un- in English). Topics include: negation and scope, polarity items/concord, antynomy and reversal, and morphosyntactic variety in the expression of negation.
Language Acquisition. A general introduction to theoretical study of first and second language acquisition, focusing mainly on the development of syntax. Topics will include tense and agreement, word order, and constraints on pronoun use, as well as lexical semantics and discourse constraints.

CAS LX 501 Linguistic Field Methods

An in-depth investigation of the phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, and discourse/pragmatics of an African or other non-Indo-European language. O’Connor. 4 cr, 2nd sem.

CAS LX 502 Semantics I

Introduction to the study of linguistic meaning, with the goal of improving understanding of the ways in which native speakers produce and interpret language. Emphasis on the interaction of meaning with other components of grammar and cognitive systems.  Alrenga. 4 cr, 1st semester.

CAS LX 503 Semantics II

Introduction to the semantics of natural language at an intermediate level. Topics include (but are not limited to) predication and quantification, scope and anaphora, problems of discourse analysis, various issues at the interface of semantics and pragmatics, and crosslinguistic semantics.  Alrenga. 4 cr, 2nd semester

CAS LX 505 Structure of African Languages

African language structure and status from the perspectives of theoretical and comparative linguistics, typology, and sociolinguistics (language and society, endangerment). Evolution of the four-phyla genetic classification system, emphasizing the high language density Niger-Congo phylum. Includes student research projects.

CAS LX 510 Phonetics

Introduction to articulatory and acoustic phonetics; the anatomy of human speech production. Practice in using feature-based analysis beginning with English and including European and non-European languages. Introduction to spectrographic analysis. Rudiments of phonological analysis. Mackenzie. 4 cr, 2nd sem.

CAS LX 513 Phonology

Prereq: CAS LX 510 or consent of instructor. Introduction to the sound system of languages. Study and analysis of physical and mental aspects of sound production in speech and the system in which sounds are organized. Phonological rules, processes, and universals examined through consideration of various languages. Mackenzie. 4 cr, 1st sem.

CAS AN 521 Sociolinguistics

Introduction to language in its social context. Methodological and theoretical approaches to sociolinguistics. Linguistic variation in relation to situation, gender, socioeconomic class, linguistic context, and ethnicity. Integrating micro- and macroanalysis from the simple conversation to societal language planning. (Formerly CAS LX 520.) O’Connor. 4 cr, 2nd sem., alternating every other year with AN 524.

CAS AN 524 Language and Culture Contacts in Contemporary Africa

Prereq: AN 351 or consent of instructor.  This course will examine the concepts and theoretical approaches to study language variation and change in sociolinguistics/linguistic anthropology.  It will examine internal and external factors that trigger language variations and changes and the social attitudes associated with them.  The nexus between diachronic and synchronic changes will also be reanalyzed in light of the Labovian variationist model.  Ngom. 4 cr, 2nd sem., alternating every other year with Sociolinguistics.

CAS LX 521 Morphology

Introduction to major theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of word structure in natural language. Emphasis on the development of skills for analysis of morphological structures of unfamiliar languages. Mackenzie. 4 cr, 2nd sem.

CAS LX 522 Syntax I

Introduction to the logical structure and organization of language and to recent Chomskyan theory. Application of principles of syntactic analysis to students’ own and other languages through data-oriented problems from different language types. Hagstrom. 4 cr, 1st sem.

CAS LX 523 Syntax II

Continuation of CAS LX 522. Investigation of the relationship between syntactic structure and logical representation. Overview of major syntactic theories, with particular emphasis on Chomsky’s “principles and parameters” approach and Bresnan’s Lexical Functional Grammar. Hagstrom. 4 cr, 2nd sem.

CAS LX 533 The Structure of Creole Languages

Overview of pidginization and creolization. Evolution, typology, and area characteristics of creole languages. Role of contact languages and other substrata. Field and classroom research with creole language speakers.

CAS LX 535 Historical and Comparative Linguistics

Prereq or coreq: CAS LX 510. Introduction to language change and the methodology of historical linguistic analysis, using data from a wide array of languages. Investigates genetic relatedness among languages, language comparison, historical reconstruction, and patterns and principles of change in phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. Mackenzie. 4 cr, 1st sem.

GRS AL 901, 902 Directed Study in Applied Linguistics

Prereq: consent of instructor and director of the program. Directed study in linguistics. Hours arranged. Variable cr, 1st & 2nd sem.

GRS LX 700 Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory

Prereq: CAS LX 522 or consent of instructor.  After a general introduction to the study of language acquisition within the principles and parameters framework of generative grammar, defining the central concepts and laying out some of the theoretical issues, a number of topics will be discussed, including: the status of functional categories, verb movement and finiteness, null subjects, binding theory, and wh-questions. The first part of the course will focus on first language acquisition; the latter part on second language acquisition.

GRS LX 865 Advanced Topics in Linguistics: Linguistic Theory

An in-depth exploration of current issues in language acquisition in relation to recent developments in linguistic theory, making use of computer-based tools and techniques in hands-on lab work. The focus is on experimental methodology and statistics, analysis of transcripts to uncover generalizations and test theoretical predictions, and use of other psycholinguistic tools. Topics to be covered will be drawn, in part, from the recent programs of the annual Boston University Conference on Language Development.

GRS LX 951, 952 Directed Study: Linguistics

Prereq: consent of instructor and director of the program. Directed study in linguistics. Hours arranged. Variable cr, 1st & 2nd sem.