LINGUIST List 12.2590

Wed Oct 17 2001

Sum: Intro to Language Course

Editor for this issue: Marie Klopfenstein <>


  1. Richard Epstein, intro to Language course

Message 1: intro to Language course

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001 13:00:40 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Epstein <>
Subject: intro to Language course

A short time ago, I posted a query concerning the organization of
an Intro to *Language* course (rather than an Intro to *Linguistics*
course), a course intended for an audience consisting mostly
of undergraduate English majors who know little or nothing about
Linguistics and who simply need to fulfill a requirement for graduation.

I received many kind responses, which are summarized below. A number
of people also wondered why there was no separate heading for Intro
to Language syllabi at the Linguist List web site, especially in view
of the fact that many linguists apparently offer this sort of course
and feel that it is a particularly difficult course to teach (perhaps
this category of syllabi could be set up?).

Most of the respondents felt that there were few good textbooks
available for an Intro to Language course. Here, in no particular
order, are the books that people have used (with varying degrees of
success). Many were cited by several people:

Language files.

Jackendoff's "Patterns in the Mind" (1994) for the intro. to the grammar
 of language, as well as an intro. to the UG-hypothesis.

McWhorter's "Word on the Street" (1998) for the Sociolinguistic issues
 (including language change).

Pinker's "The Language Instinct" and "Words and Rules"

G. Sampson, Educating Eve

Anthony Burgess, a mouthful of air

Bryson, B. 1996. The Mother tongue: English and how 
 it got that way. Fun book, though there are some errors in it.

Bauer, L. and P. Trudgill. 1998. Language Myths. 
 Students like this one. They use it to give presentations in class.

Clark, V. P., P. A. Escholz, A. F. Rosa. 2000.
 Language: Readings in Language and Culture. 
 Good discussions with study questions. 

Lederer, R. The Miracle of Language.

David Crystal, Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd Ed, 1997, CUP)

McCrum R., Cran W., MacNeil R., "The Story of English" (Penguin, 1992)

Dick Leith's Social History of English

Nancy Bonvillain, "Language, Culture, and Communication: The Meaning of
 Messages," 3rd ed. Prentice-Hall, 2000. ISBN: 0-13-010429-9

Peter Farb's (1973) "Word Play"

Aitchison, J. (1999) Teach Yourself Linguistics (5th edition). London: Hodder & 

Carter, R. et al. (1997) Working with Texts. London: Routledge.

Cook, V. (1997) Inside Language. London: Arnold.

Crystal, D. (1996) Rediscover Grammar. Harlow: Longman.

Hudson, G. (2000) Essential Introductory Linguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Lyons, J. (1981) Language and Linguistics: An introduction. Cambridge: CUP.

Trask, R.L. (1999) Language: The basics (2nd edition). London: Routledge.

Traugott, E.C. and Pratt, M.L. (1980) Linguistics for Students of Literature. New 
York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Yule, G. (1996) The Study of Language (2nd edition). Cambridge: CUP

Davis, B. (ed.) 1992. Dimensions of Language. New York: McMillan.

Lederer, R. 1998. Crazy English. New York: Pocket Books.

Mufwene, S., J. Rickford, G. Bailey and J. Baugh (eds.) 1998. African-	American 
English. London: Routledge.

Vesterman, W. (ed.) 1992. Discovering Language. Needham Heights, MA: 	Allyn & Bacon.

Here are some additional comments:

Rachel Rebecca Reynolds: "African Voices: An Introduction to the
Languages and Linguistics of Africa." It opens with a broad section
on language politics and then explains how learning about the structures
of language, phonology, phonetics, graphology, syntax and semantics is
actually relevant to language planning, workplace communications, ethnic
studies, and classroom work. It is quite appreciable that they make
linguistics relevant up front. The authors are Vic Webb and Kembo-Sure.

Rusty Barrett: Robin Queen and I are currently teaching an Intro to
Language course at the University of Michigan. There is a fairly
 extensive course website at

Paul Justice: There's no book in existence (as far as I know) that
really works with this group, so I decided to write my own. It's due out
in November (CSLI).
 note from RE: see Paul's website for details and a course syllabus: 

Suzette Haden Elgin: there's a minicourse ("Real World Linguistics 101")
posted at my SFWA website:
the course is on convenient links at the welcome page (comments welcome!)

Barbara Bullock has a syllabus on her website:

I would like to thank each of the following people for their very
helpful responses (my apologies if I've left someone out):

Rachel Rebecca Reynolds
Rusty Barrett
Harriet Taber
Anna Szabolcsi
Stuart Stewart
Tess James
Seran Dogancay-Aktuna
Paul Justice
Suzette Haden Elgin
Jo Tyler
John Reighard
John Phillips
Barbara Bullock
Rudolph C Troike
Ng E-Ching
Margarita Balamakova
Margaret E. Winters
Szilvia Papp
Geoffrey S. Nathan
Cynthia McCollie-Lewis
Shelley Tulloch

And an extra special thanks to all the kind folks who very generously
offered to share their course materials (syllabi, assignments,
course notes, etc.) -- the products of a lot of hard work.

Thanks again to everyone,

Rich Epstein
Assistant Professor (Linguistics)
Dept. of English
Rutgers University, Camden
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