Introduction to linguistics

Patricia Shaw

Course days, time, and location:
6/22, 6/23, 6/24, 6/28, 6/29, 6/30, 7/1, & 7/2
10:00 - 11:45
Pacific, Room 110

Course Information:
A critical question for members of an endangered language community is:  How can the study of Linguistics help me learn more about my own language?

Linguistics offers a framework of concepts and analytical tools to help understand the way different languages are organized. Within every component of a language - ranging from what sounds are used to how words, phrases, and sentences are built up into conversations or stories or speeches - there are patterns. What Linguistics aims to do is discover just what those patterns are. What makes every language so unique and so special is how those patterns are structured and how they work together to become a vehicle for the particular world view of the cultural identity of the people who speak that language.

It’s also the case that all human languages share certain components of structure. So, in a context, for example, where an indigenous community wants to educate their children to be bilingual in both their local language and the “majority” language, it’s really helpful to know - even though the two languages may ‘sound’ really different -what aspects are in fact essentially similar. At the same time, it’s also really important to learn about where they are fundamentally different, as this can contribute to understanding what aspects of language learning are more challenging, and why.

This course will provide a foundation in the essential concepts of linguistic structure: what do terms like phoneme, phonology, morpheme, morphology, noun, verb, pronoun, subordinate clause, imperative, evidential, etc., mean?  How can you learn to identify them in your language?

This course will also address other questions like: What does it mean for different languages to be related to each other? How do dialects differ? What kinds of changes in a language can occur over time?

Class participants will have the opportunity to work with these issues by analyzing “data” from a diversity of endangered languages around the world. Participants are particularly encouraged to bring resources and questions from their own language contexts.

Instructor(s) Bio:
Patricia A. Shaw (Director, First Nations Languages Program, University of British Columbia; taught Field Methods for InField 2008) works in close collaboration with critically endangered language communities (Salish, Wakashan, Siouan, Athapaskan, Tsimshian) to document extant grammatical and cultural knowledge, to train native speaker linguists in research and archiving methodologies, to develop pedagogical materials for language revitalization, and to teach these languages both at the community level and at UBC.

She is Editor of the UBC Press First Nations Languages series, was Director of the Aboriginal Languages and Literacy Institute at UBC (2006), has co-chaired SSHRC Aboriginal Strategic Research Committees, has served on the LSA Endangered Languages Committee, and is the President-Elect for SSILA.

                                                       Updated June 21, 2010 2:06 pm