New linguistics courses for fall 2020


In the fall of 2020, the linguistics faculty will offer two brand new courses:

LIN/ENG 7710: Advanced Studies in Linguistics (Field Methods)

Wednesdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m., taught by Professor Petr Staroverov.

A very important goal for linguistics is to describe understudied languages and preserve cultural heritage through linguistic fieldwork. In this course, we will study the techniques that linguists use in describing and analyzing a language that may never have been studied before. Students will work with a speaker of Zhoushan, an understudied language spoken in China, to get hands-on practice in language documentation. The course will guide the students in collecting and organizing language data and in writing up a fragment of language description. Advanced studies in linguistics is a wonderful opportunity to try hands-on linguistic research.

For more information, please contact

LIN 5360: Child Language Acquisition

(Currently titled: Normal Language Acquisition and Usage)

Thursdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m. by Professor Natalia Rakhlin.

Course at a glance

  • Discussions
  • Brief writing assignments
  • Hands-on activities analyzing child language
  • Online quizzes
  • Mid-term and final


Human language is the most complex communication system of all-natural or artificial communication systems, including even those used by the most powerful computers. Yet, children master the core of this system before they learn to add two and two together or tie their shoelaces.

How do children acquire language? Although we are not even close to an answer, there have been many exciting discoveries and heated debates that moved us closer to our understanding of this question. In this course, we will discuss the big questions that intrigue those of us who marvel at the linguistic genius of children.

We will cover as many of the great debates as we can, including:

  • How do children learn to recognize and produce the sounds of their language?
  • How do they learn to associate meanings with linguistic labels (words)?
  • How do they acquire the rules of grammar?
  • Why do children differ in the pace of their language acquisition but show amazing uniformity in the overall pattern?
  • Is there a critical period for language acquisition?
  • Are we born with any innate knowledge that aids us in language acquisition?
  • Is it harder to acquire two languages at once?

For each question, we will discuss the theories that have been proposed and debate the evidence that supports or discredits them. By the end of this course, you should have a better understanding of the issues and possible solutions to what is considered to be one of the "hard problems" in cognitive science. 

For more information, please contact

Download the LIN 5360 flyer

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