Teaching

ENGL 384
Concepts of Grammar

ENGL 385
Meaning in Language

ENGL 605
Readings in Linguistics

ENGL 779A
The Grammar of Narrative

ENGL 482
History of English

ENGL 489I
Literature and Linguistics

ENGL 779A
Pragmatics

ENGL 779A
Cognitive Approaches to Grammar

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Concepts of Grammar

English 384, Offered Every Spring
This course explores the nature of grammar from both practical and theoretical perspectives. Our immediate practical concern is to develop the vocabulary and technical skills necessary to identify and describe basic grammatical structures: to this end, we will examine the nature of grammatical categories (noun, verb, adjective, etc.), syntactic roles (subject, object), phrase structure, constituency, and a range of constructions, in English and a variety of languages from around the world. Once we can describe grammatical phenomena, we can begin to consider more general problems, such as why grammars take the form that they do and how grammatical form relates to language use. Our ultimate theoretical goal is to understand the knowledge and conceptual abilities which allow a native speaker to use and understand her language. Our search will lead us to consider issues ranging from the ways children learn their first language, whether or not computers or chimpanzees can learn language, and how much (or how little) grammar can vary across l anguages. In the end, our study of grammar should lead us to a new understanding of the human mind itself, and a new appreciation for the prodigious complexity in our most trivial mental acts.

Meaning in Language

English 385, Offered Every Fall
What is meaning? What does it mean to 'mean what one says'? How do words carry meaning, and how do people put meaning into the words they use? What is 'literal' meaning and how does it relate to other kinds of meaning (allegorical, metaphorical, hidden)? What makes a sentence true, or makes a particular speech act count as a promise, a threat, a suggestion, or a hint?

This course will introduce students to a broad range of semantic phenomena and the theoretical tools linguists use to analyze them. The organization of the syllabus reflects both empirical and theoretical perspectives in the study of linguistic semantics. On the theoretical side, the basic question is how does one represent meaning, and more particularly, how should a theory of meaning fit with an overall theory of language and mind. On the empirical side, emphasis will be placed on the description and analysis of real linguistic data. The examples we will consider include both spoken and written uses of English, as well as wholly invented utterances supplemented with native speaker judgments.

Major topics include the nature of word meaning, the relation between lexical and grammatical meaning, the role of compositionality and idiomaticity in the creation of complex meanings, and the interaction between context and convention in determining a speaker's meaning. Course work will include several problem sets, a midterm, a term paper, and a take-home final. This course has no prerequisites.
 


History of English

English 482
This course examines the history of English from its origins in the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family (which also includes Greek, Russian, Latin, Persian and Hindi, among others), through its modern position as the most widely spoken language on the planet. We will be interested in both "internal" developments, such as changes in the sounds of the language and the ways sentences are structured, and "external" factors, such as the social and political forces that carried English around the world. As part of our study of transformations the language has undergone in the last several centuries, we look at some features of Englishes spoken outside Europe and North America. The course will also include considerations of how and why languages change, including the ways that social context and the cognitive organization of language make certain kinds of change more natural than others.

Linguistics and Literature

English 489I
This class introduces students of literature to some basic linguistic concepts and analytic techniques which may be applied to the study of literary texts. Our general focus will be on the ways grammar and word choice serve to shape the coherence and expressive force of a text. Major topics include the nature of figurative language; the grammatical encoding of viewpoint; speech acts and performativity in language; the relation between sentence structure and the flow of information in a text; and the role of presupposition and implicature in the creation of textual meaning. Course work will consist of written assignments, a midterm and a final in which students will apply the concepts and techniques they have learned to the analysis of prose and poetry texts. This course has no prerequisites.

Readings in Linguistics

English 605, Spring 2002
The student of texts deals unavoidably with crucial technical aspects of language but often lacks the training necessary for even their recognition. The result is typically a frustration at the stage of the thesis or dissertation, when the student is intuitively aware of the role of language in a literary work or works, and must write about certain uses of language and their effects, but has no sophisticated way to do so.  The successful graduate of this course will recognize technical phenomena in language and be familiar with approaches to their analysis.  Particular attention will be paid to instruments of linguistics useful for critical and rhetorical analysis. Given the increasing incidence of advertisements in the MLA Job Information List for candidates who can teach the occasional course in the structure of English, this course will help prepare students for not only research but also the job market. 

Our general focus will be on the basic principles and analytic techniques of cognitive linguistics, with special emphasis on the notion of grammatical constructions  We will survey a variety of grammatical phenomena and introduce students to some of the major issues in linguistic theory. Our major emphasis will be on recognizing and analyzing the resources that language users draw on in the construction of meaning. No prior knowledge of linguistics is presupposed. The principal activity of this course consists in completing a program of directed reading, for which class meetings will provide support. Students will write weekly informal commentary on the readings or on specific linguistic problems related to the readings. No formal paper or presentation is required. The final examination will be take-home.


The Grammar of Narrative

English 779A, Fall 2002
This course explores the relationship between two distinctively human cognitive phenomena: the grammatical structure of human language and the narrative organization of human thought. What role does grammar play in narrative, and how do narratives make use of grammatical devices? Could narrative exist without grammar? Would grammar exist without narrative?
The course offers a broad survey of grammatical phenomena and their relation to narrative and discourse structures. We will begin inside the noun phrase and gradually work our up through clausal syntax, clause chaining constructions, and ultimately up to discourse grammar and topic management. Along the way we will consider how grammatical devices such as (in)definite marking, pronominal anaphora, case marking, tense, aspect, voice, mood, and modality (among others) relate to such basic narrative phenomena as viewpoint, perspective, narrative voice, causality, coherence, self-referentiality, and irony.

Readings will be drawn both from literary/narrative theory and linguistics (though with a strong emphasis on the latter). Featured theorists will include, among others, Mira Ariel, Michelle Cutrer, John Dubois, Gerard Genette, Gilles Fauconnier, Suzanne Fleischman, Monika Fludernik, Knud Lambrecht, Ronald Langacker, Eve Sweetser, Mark Turner, and Karen van Hoek. Students will be expected to synthesize insights from both narrative and grammatical theory in their course work, which will consist of a class presentation and a term paper.



Pragmatics

English 779A, Fall 2003
In 1938 Charles Morris first distinguished pragmatics from its sister fields syntax and semantics, defining it as the study of signs in relation to their interpreters. This class will introduce students to the major phenomena which have driven the development of pragmatic theory in linguistics and related cognitive sciences—among others, deixis, implicature, presupposition, speech acts, figurativity, and politeness. Throughout, we will be concerned with the relations between sentence meaning and speaker meaning, with the types of inferential processes that mediate between them, and with the ways these processes may affect both the use and the structure of linguistic forms themselves. This course should be of interest to anyone concerned with the complex ways in which interpretations systematically reflect, and go beyond the linguistic forms on which they are based: students of linguistics should gain a deeper appreciation of the interfaces between pragmatics, semantics and syntax; students of literature may learn to reconsider the oft-lamented gap between meaning and language not as a failing, but as a powerful feature of human communication; and all students should gain a deep appreciation for the subtle relations between form and use which are a defining feature of linguistic signs.


Cognitive Approaches to Grammar

English 779A, Spring 2006
Cognitive Linguistics is a broad framework which seeks to explain the forms of language as grounded in and emerging from the cognitive and communicative contexts of language use. This course will introduce students to the basic principles and preoccupations of Cognitive Linguistics and explore their application to a variety of grammatical phenomena. The course is intended to be of interest both to advanced s tudents of linguistics interested in learning about work in a non-generative framework, and to students of language and literature more generally interested in learning about the cognitive bases of grammatical form and language use.

The course will begin by introduing some of the basic theoretical machinery which cognitive linguists use to talk about meaning, grammar, and conceptual structure. Major topics will include the role of constructions as a basic unit of grammar, the role of frames and mental spaces in meaning construction, the role of construal operations as part of conceptualization, and the ways in which cognition in general can be said to be "embodied".

As the semester progresses we will examine the application of these ideas to a variety of grammatical phenomena—the syntax and semantics of passive constructions, rules for argument linking, constraints on pronominal anaphora, raising constructions, and the grammar of polarity sensitivity—and we will consider (at least some of) the implications of these analyses for theories of language change, language acquisition, and cross-linguistic variation.

It is expected that students may come to this course with very different levels of linguistic sophistication: no previous knowledge of linguistics will be required, though some familiarity with the basics of grammatical description will be assumed. Course work will consist of regular problems sets, one or more class presentations, and a research paper in which students will use naturalistic data to analyze a single linguistic construction of their choice. Where appropriate, there may be a choice of assignments or suggested readings based on the abilities and interests of different students.

The primary text for this course will be Croft & Cruse (2004), liberally supplemented with selections from Goldberg (1995), Langacker (1991, 1999), van Hoek (1997) and other authors.