Language is an essential part of who we are as human beings. It has been described as a biological imperative, as a communicative tool, and as an art. We all have extensive and subtle language skills and, indeed, we all have opinions about what is good or bad language. Few of us, however, really understand what language is. This course is a broad survey of the theoretical, the historical, the psychological, the biological, and the sociocultural issues related to human language in general and English in particular. Objectives for this course include the following: for students to become aware of how important the study of human language is to understanding human cognition, behavior, and society; for students to learn that knowing the "structure" or grammar of a language requires much more than just knowing a set of rules for good and bad sentences and to understand that the study of language is more than just the study of grammar; for students to recognize some general types of variation in different human languages; for students to recognize syntax, semantics, phonetics, language acquisition, sociolinguistics, and other subfields of linguistics and to understand basic concepts and issues in these subfields; for students to gain some perspective both on how much has been learned about language and on how many more questions there still are to be answered; for students to be able to apply general linguistic concepts and vocabulary to particular examples and to related fields of research; and for students to have gained a novice ability to read additional linguistic sources and to apply the information in these sources to language as they find it in the real world.
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