selected courses taught recently at U Michigan back to home page

course levels range from 100- to 400-level for undergraduates, and from 500-level up for graduate students

Ling 421/521, Morphology
Analysis of the forms and meanings of complex words, and tightly-knit phrases, with emphasis on complex morphologies, such as Afroasiatic, Australian, and Native American languages. Morphophonological topics include cliticization, reduplication, subtractive morphology, feature harmony, sound symbolism, ablaut (apophony), and tonal ablaut. Morphosyntactic topics include semantic interactions of morphological categories, bracketing issues, morphosyntactic dependencies, sociolinguistically motivated opacity, and the blurry distinction between morphology and syntax.
Ling 492/792, Seminar: Language and biology
The effects of biological and environmental factors on the form of human language. Topics include the origins of language, human vs. animal communication, sociolinguistic complexification-simplification theory, anatomical and physiological constraints on speech, effects on language of locally endemic anatomical features (e.g. absence of alveolar ridge) and conductive hearing loss, effects on language of the local physical environment (humidity, altitude, visibility), L1 acquisition in the context of general maturation, linguistic effects of aphasia and Parkinson’s disease, ethological aspects of vocalic sound symbolism, linguistic consequences of population movement or stability (e.g. founder effects), linguistics-genetics collaborations in reconstructing ancient population movements, the applicability of biological concepts like spandrels and punctuated equilibrium linguistic change and conservatism.
Ling 497, African linguistics
A mix of grammatical analysis, historical linguistics (including collaborations with geneticists), and sociolinguistics of sub-Saharan African languages. Taught this year as an undergraduate capstone course, showing how useful (or not) students’ prior coursework in phonology, syntax, and semantics is in tackling nonwestern languages. Among the more unusual topics are clicks, SOVX syntax, logophoric pronominals, language isolates, ancient “out of Africa” human migration, the Bantu expansion within Africa, and special registers such as urban youth “languages.”

Ling 425/525, Cognitive linguistics
Cognitive linguistics is a group of related lines of research that disagree with generative grammar and formal semantics on almost everything. Among its central principles are the recognition of constructions (phrasal schemas), the linguistic relevance of attention and focus, a strong interest in figurative language (metaphor, metonymy), rejection of truth conditions as the basic for meaning, and denial of boundaries between meaning, pragmatics, and encyclopedic knowledge. Relevant research lines within this movement are construction grammar, Langacker’s Cognitive Grammar, work by Lakoff and others on metaphor and radial semantic networks, and work on “mental spaces” by Fauconnier and others.

Ling 102, First-year seminar: Language and humor
The class discusses various forms of humor, especially rough humor, and related acts such as insults, practical jokes, and hazing, and the transition from them to violence, including political protest and terrorism. Evil clowns and the Joker help define where “the line” is located. The cycle of joke, immediate reaction of listeners/observers including targets, delayed reaction by others (in the age of social media), and the jokester’s ultimate response (backing down or defiance), is also considered. The serious discussions are interwoven with students’ performances, beginning with written satire and proceeding to small-group improv and individual stand-up comedy. Evening visits to local comedy clubs will be organized.

Ling 115, Languages of the world(s)
About 6000 languages are still spoken. To learn more about language in general, we will compare English with unrelated languages, ranging from the well-known (like Arabic and Japanese) to endangered languages that you have never heard of. Further insight can be gleaned by comparisons to the “languages” of chimps, Neanderthals, babies, radical feminists, deaf signers, aphasics, whistlers, African drummers, and (of course) extraterrestrials.

[last update Nov 2017]

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