Mark Myslín :: Academic :: Intro to Linguistics

Course info | Classes/assignments | Readings | Final project gallery

Welcome to Linguistics! In this class, you will:

  • • learn the basics of how language works and how people use it

  • • do hands-on research using experimental and observational methods

  • • explore the social meanings of linguistic diversity

  • • create positive public messages to debunk language myths

General info

Class meetings: MTWR 2:00-2:50 pm in Rm AT 104
Instructor: Mark Myslín
Instructor email: mmyslin«at»
Office hours: Monday 9-10 am, Wednesday 1-2 pm or by appointment in Rm AT 104
TA: Johnny Collard

Components of the course

  • Homework: 40% of grade. Homework will be assigned almost every day and it will usually be due the next day. I will post the homework on the course website after class every day should you need to double-check the assignment. Working together on homework is encouraged but everyone must turn in their own assignment. If you have questions about the homework, please ask before turning it in!

    One of your assignments will be to post at least once on our private class blog, the Upward Bound Language Log, about anything you notice about language. More info on this is here. You may do this assignment anytime before Friday, July 31. Be sure to email me when you post so I can give you credit! Posting more than once or commenting on someone else's post is a very good thing and will earn you some extra credit.

  • Participation: 25% of grade. Good participation means coming to class on time every day with a positive attitude, taking part in activities, and respecting all people and ideas in class. It does not mean having side conversations when someone is speaking, leaving to go to the bathroom more than once a week, having iPods or phones out during class, or making offensive comments or jokes about any person or group. Any kind of continued disruptive behavior (after I have talked to you about it) will result in reductions to your participation grade as well as standard Upward Bound disciplinary protocol, which may include early in-room time, stipend deductions, or a conference with the program director.

  • Midterm: 10% of grade. The midterm exam will be given on Tuesday, July 21. We will have a review session in class the day before.

  • Final project: 25% of grade. The final project is to create a positive public message about any widely held language myth, working in a group with two other students. I will hand out a list of suggested topics early in the course and encourage you to start thinking about and working on this early. You will have time in class to work on it during the last week but you'll also have to do a good bit of work outside of class. Extra credit for presenting at the final showcase!

Tentative course schedule

Please note this is only a rough plan and may change. All assignments and due dates will be announced in class and on the assignments page of the course website.

Week 1: Intro. The sounds of language
1. Intro to linguistics. What is language? Description vs. prescription.
2. Phonetics. Anatomy of the vocal tract.
3. Phonetics. Describing the world's speech sounds with the International Phonetic Alphabet.
4. Phonology. Sound patterns in languages. Wug tests!
Week 2: Words, sentences, and meaning
1. Morphology. (New) word formation. Is it a word if it's not in the dictionary?
2. Syntax. Word classes activity. Nouns and verbs yahoo!
3. Syntax. Constituent structure; constructions.
4. Semantics. Meanings, synonyms, lies. Corpus research activity.
Week 3: Midterm. Language and society
1. Review game
2. Midterm
3. Intro to sociolinguistics. Status, style, stereotypes. Intro project.
4. Dialects. California English, perceptual dialectology, hella.
Week 4: Language and society
1. Generations. Language of MySpace and text messages. Slang. Dude.
2. Ethnicity. African American English. 1996 Oakland schools controversy.
3. Politics of language. Bilingualism, education, and 'English-only.'
4. Language, gender, and power. Women's 'assertiveness traning'; men's vernacular variants.
Week 5: Final project
1. Project work day
2. Project work day
4. (Extra credit: Present projects @ showcase)