LINGUIST 101G Language, Mind and Society

LINGUIST 101G | B&E, EDUSW, EMHSS, LC | Semester One, 2017 | City Campus

Description

Language is one of the most important aspects of being human. It is also a vast and exciting area of study. On the one hand, language has many practical purposes: we use it in almost everything we do to keep our communities functioning and to manage our identities. On the other hand, language can give us a window into how thoughts and meanings are formed in the mind. This course looks at the unique relations that hold between mind, society and language. In particular we look at the following questions:

  • Does what we think about language matter?
  • How much "control" do we have over the creation of meaning?
  • What is "conversation"?
  • Where is language in our mind, and how is it connected to the notion of meaning?
  • Do different cultures organise their meanings and languages differently?
  • What is special about human language and how did we get here?
  • Artifical Intelligence: will computers ever really be able to "do" language the way we do? What are the challenges?  

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, you should:

  • Be able to describe how differences in language use can manifest themselves at different levels of structure
  • Be able to distinguish "facts", "values" and "opinions" as these relate to language and meaning in social contexts
  • Discriminate between and define key terms in the field, eg, code-switching, politeness, apparent time, macro-sociolinguistics, micro-sociolinguistics
  • Critically evaluate and develop coherent arguments in favour of and against particular analyses of language and meaning 
  • Be able to explain clearly to each other the relationship of different topics in the readings
  • Be able to apply primary language data (texts, media, recordings, etc) to problems in language and society

Topics covered

  • What it means to "mean", where this comes from, and how to use the empirical and theoretical tools in linguistics that analyse this
  • How meaning is constructed in society (semiotics)
  • The acquistion of language – where and how we learn language. How we become members of speech communities.
  • Memes – what they can tell us about language and society
  • Politeness and how we talk about interactive meaning in different socities
  • The role of contempoary media and communication
  • What’s the point? Taking linguistics outside the university
  • Language and the progress of Artificial Intelligence

Assessment

"Thinking pragmatically" blogs (25%)

Short essay (25%)

Final examination (50%)

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