description: Ling 102 is an introduction to the study of human
language viewed from a social and historical perspective. Students will
acquire a variety of tools for linguistic analysis, covering phonetics,
phonology, morphology, syntax and discourse. The course will focus on
linguistic changes in progress in American society, in both mainstream and
minority communities. Students will engage in field projects to search for
the social correlates of linguistic behavior, and will use quantitative
methods to analyze the results. The course has no prerequisites, and
satisfies the Quantitative Data Analysis Requirement, Society Sector. It is
appropriate for any Penn student interested in language and its use.
Requirements: Due to the nature of the summer school
schedule, we will be covering a lot of new material in each meeting. It is
therefore very important that you attend every class and complete the
readings and written assignments on time. Active participation in class is
expected, and in general there won't be opportunities to make up late or
incomplete work (except in case of a genuine medical or personal emergency,
in which case you should contact me as soon as you can). There are four
kinds of assignments that will be graded:
- All required readings will be distributed in class or made available
online in PDF. For students interested in doing further background reading,
I recommend Jean Aitchison's
Language change: progress or decay? (Cambridge).
- To complete the field projects, you'll need to have access to a
computer with Excel or a comparable spreadsheet program. (campus
- It may be helpful to have recording
equipment of some kind (laptop with microphone, portable tape/MP3
recorder, etc). If you don't, we can arrange for you to borrow it as the
Your final grade will be calculated as follows:
- Field project: Throughout the course, you will be
collecting linguistic data from speakers in your community using various
methods (site studies, rapid-and-anonymous elicitations, reading tasks,
etc). We will pool the data we've collected as a class and use it to study
variation in the pronunciation of /ae/ -- the vowel in
cat, laugh, hammer, etc. -- according to demographic and linguistic
factors. You will submit project reports in two stages:
encouraged to work in pairs and submit joint reports. Grading will take
into account the skill with which you carried out your fieldwork, your
accurate and appropriate use of the analytical tools covered in class, your
demonstrated understanding of the background theoretical issues, and the
clarity of your written presentation.
preliminary report (2-4 pages) to ensure that you have mastered the
analytical techniques covered so far and to assess directions for further
- a longer, more in-depth final report
- Homework and quizzes: In many of our meetings you will be
asked to either complete a short homework assignment or prepare for a short
in-class quiz for the following meeting. Homeworks and quizzes are designed
to give you practice in applying the principles learned in class and are
graded on a scale of Credit, Partial Credit, or zero, the idea being that
you won't be penalized for minor errors. You are encouraged to discuss
homework problems with other students, but you should write up your
assignment independently unless otherwise instructed.
We will go over each homework or quiz together in
class immediately after it's been turned in. This means that
late homeworks and quizzes cannot be accepted (unless you've made
prior arrangements with me or there's a genuine emergency). However, your
lowest homework/quiz grade will be automatically dropped from the
calculation of your final grade at the end of the course.
- Exam: There will be a final exam on the last day of
Wednesday, August 8. It will consist of short-answer,
multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions covering data-analysis
techniques, linguistic principles, assigned readings, and material from
- Class presentation: Each student will give a brief
(15-20 minute) presentation, supplemented by a handout, in an area of
individual interest. Topics must be approved by me ahead of time and should
be narrow in scope: for example, you could read and critically review a
paper or two about a topic of particular interest to you; research the
features of a regional dialect we haven't discussed; or use data you've
collected to conduct a narrative analysis or explore an additional
phonological variable. In some cases I'll provide a topic or reading and
ask for a volunteer to present it the following week. Otherwise, you'll do
your presentation in class on August 1.
Field project: 40%
(Class participation is not a formal component of your grade, but it will be
taken into account in determining whether borderline grades are rounded up
Final exam: 25%
Class presentation: 10%
Some links of interest:
SCHEDULE (please check regularly for
Introduction: What is linguistics? What is sociolinguistics? Methods of
data collection. Tense and lax /ae/.
July 4. No class (holiday)
July 9. Sounds of language and how they are
organized. Vowels and consonants as sociolinguistic variables.
July 11. Phonetics and phonology continued. Issues in studying sound
change (Labov 2007). Basic Excel skills.
- Finish collecting data for Assignment 1; fill in spreadsheet, including Columns
H-J (you'll need to read through p. 10 of the 7/9 class handout in order to
fill in Column J). Email spreadsheets
to Marjorie by 5pm on Tuesday, 7/10.
- Homework 1: Phonetics and
phonology. Due at the beginning of class on Wednesday, 7/11.
- Start reading Aitchison ch4-6
July 16. Guest presentation by Jonathan Wright: The Merger
of Aspiration in Seoul Korean, A Change in Progress. sound1 sound2
Basic acoustic phonetics. Word structure. Variation in agreement and inflection.
July 18. Presentation by Meredith Aska McBride: A rapid and
anonymous study of /r/ in Philadelphia (Ellis et al. 2005).
sound change. Age-grading vs. change-in-progress interpretations of age
trends. Assessment of preliminary reports.
- Prepare for in-class
midterm quiz on Monday, July 23.
- Collect pilot data for next stage of
field project. Instructions have been emailed to you; let me know if you
need them again. The individual interview form is here. Bring data to class on
Monday, July 23.
Midterm quiz. Review of pilot data from R&A and individual
Sentence structure. Using historical corpora to study syntactic
Chi-squared and t-tests for statistical significance.
Presentation by Peter Sobieraj: The sociolinguistics of British pop song
pronunciation (Trudgill 1983). (slides)
- Homework 3, due by email at
10am on Wed. 7/25.
- Reading: Aitchison ch7-8.
Sentence structure continued.
Effective graphic presentation of statistical data.
Guest presentation by Aaron Dinkin: Dialect geography and language change.
Negation, auxiliaries, tense and aspect in African American Vernacular
Statistical methods continued.
- Begin data clean-up and analysis for final field project; submit (optional) excerpt
for feedback by Wed. 8/1.
- Final field project due by noon on Sunday, August 5. (guidelines)
- Reading: Winford, An introduction
to contact linguistics, sections
- Begin preparing for final exam; bring questions to class on
Guest presentation by Michael Friesner: Topics in language contact. (slides)
Wrap-up and exam review.
August 8. Final exam