ENGL605 - Readings in Linguistics

The student of texts inevitably deals with technical aspects of language but often lacks the training necessary even to recognize them. The result is typically frustration at the stage of the thesis or dissertation, when the student is intuitively aware of the role of language in a text or body of work and must write about certain uses of language and their effects, but has no sophisticated way to do so.

This course introduces theoretical insights and analytic techniques from linguistics and the cognitive sciences relevant to understanding how meanings are constructed in texts and how cultural values and identities get negotiated in and through the use of language. Our primary practical concern will be on developing skills for doing linguistics, from the basics of phonetic transcription and syntactic parsing, to the more recondite techniques needed for the analysis of meaning and discourse. Along the way we will be guided by a theoretical concern with the nature of language as a cognitive system and its place in individual and social psychology.

Topics to be covered include, but are not limited to: the description of English sound structures, word structures and phrase structures; the relation between linguistic meaning and conceptual structure; the dynamics of language use and language processing; the role of figurativity in ordinary language and thought; and the nature of linguistic variation, including notions of dialect, register, genre and style. In considering each of these topics, we will be especially concerned with the ways in which linguistics intersects with and may inform rhetorical and literary analysis.

The successful graduate of this course will therefore: (i) recognize technical phenomena in language; (ii) have a basic familiarity with approaches to the analysis of these linguistic phenomena; and (iii) be able to gather and use data from English and other languages to develop and evaluate analyses of linguistic structure and language use.The principal activity of the class will be the completion of a program of directed reading. Written work will include a variety of analytic exercises, short response papers, an annotated bibliography and a final paper. No prior knowledge of linguistics is assumed.