Teaching

Descriptions of courses I have taught are found below. Course syllabi and teaching materials are available by request.

At Stanford University

 

 

 

Formal Semantics of African Languages

Audience: graduate students

The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in variation as a source of explananda in semantic theory. As a result, African languages–comprising a third of the world’s living tongues–have enjoyed unprecedented attention in the formal semantics literature. In this seminar, we will explore recent research on African language phenomena including quantification, NP semantics and number, reported speech, tense-aspect-modality, and gradable expressions from the perspective of crosslinguistic formal semantics. Our discussions will be guided by several questions: What patterns do African languages show us that more commonly-studied languages do not? Is variation in meaning reflected systematically in morphosyntactic patterns? What can looking at variation tell us about the meaning component of grammar and its interfaces? In addition to engaging with these questions, we will also consider the methodological basis of crosslinguistic semantic research and the role played by fieldwork.

Linguistic Field Methods I

Audience: graduate students

This is the first half of a two-quarter course designed to give you hands-on experience with collecting, processing and analyzing raw linguistic data for the purpose of language description. The main goals are to gain experience with the methodological and analytical issues that arise in linguistic fieldwork, drawing upon all of your linguistic training to date; and to gain understanding about a particular language;

This course will also address ethics and collaborative aspects of linguistic fieldwork, as well as technological aspects of language documentation (data management, tools for transcription and annotation, and issues with the archiving and preservation of data), as they become relevant to the class.

This class will give you basic tools to embark on your own field research project. If field research is not in your immediate future, this class will provide you with insights on how to approach any project where you are not dealing with your own linguistic intuitions.

Linguistic Field Methods II

Audience: graduate students

This is the second half of a two-quarter course designed to give you hands-on experience with collecting, processing and analyzing raw linguistic data for the purpose of language description.

This quarter we will continue to uncover basic structures of Amharic, building upon this present class’ materials and findings. The following will be covered:

Topics from the existing Amharic linguistics literature (we will no longer avoid references on the language and closely related varieties).
Specialized topics in field research. Possibilities: issues in semantic field research, documenting prosody, and experimental methodologies in the field. These topics will be partially dependent on choice of individual projects.
The use and development of fieldwork resource manuals and stimuli. You will develop elicitation materials to further your own research goals and to share publicly with colleagues. As for a research topic, you may continue a particular topic or chose a different one. The goal in this second quarter is to move beyond basic documentation to learn about field methods in the larger landscape of linguistic science.

Design + Argument

Interdisciplinary Stanford d.school course
Co-teachers: Kareem Collie and José Fernando Torres Varela

In Design + Argument we explore the relationship between design thinking and argumentation, asking—

(a) How might we use design thinking as a way of constructing strong arguments?

(b) How might the methods and theories used to construct strong arguments be used in design thinking to create a more purposeful design outcome?

A good argument is constructed step by step, brick by brick— it is the foundation in which an idea, action, or theory is built. A good argument is the result of good design.
Using human centered design we will investigate the structure of argument within spoken and written language. We will also investigate the different forms and uses of the arguments that shape communication and thought. These topics will be introduced into the design thinking process towards the goal of constructing new alternative design outcomes and alternate forms of argument.

 

 

 

 

At the University of California, San Diego

 

 

 

Event Semantics

Audience: graduate students

There is now considerable agreement that ordinary discourse involves implicit reference to events. Yet the precise characterization and formal representation of events remains the focus of many debates among linguists, philosophers, and psycholinguists. What are events and what role to they play in human language? In addition to providing background in the classic literature on events in the Davidsonian tradition, this course will discuss the role of the event argument in the semantic analysis of many different phenomena, including adverbial modification, anaphora, and temporal and aspectual interpretation. We will also consider events alongside other abstract elements in the larger semantic ontology, including states, times, and degrees.

Introduction to African Languages

Audience: undergraduate students

Home to over 1000 languages, the continent of Africa presents a fascinating array of linguistic phenomena, some of which are not found in other areas of the world. This class introduces students to the structural richness of African languages, to the basics of linguistic fieldwork, and to the ways in which language is used in African society. The class is divided into three main sections:

In weeks 1-4, we will focus on learning the structural properties of African languages, with an emphasis on sound systems and word-formation. This will be the most technical part of the course, but it has a secondary purpose: to prepare for the second section, in which we study African languages with the help of native speakers.

In weeks 4-7, we will have four fieldwork sessions with speakers of two different African languages, interspersed with more discussion of word formation and syntax. This will give students an entry into how linguists conduct fieldwork, and to demonstrate (live) the language features that are discussed in the book and in the class.

In weeks 8-10, we will study African language use in society—the expressive uses of language, language games, the social impact of multi-lingualism, and how different styles or ‘registers’ of language signify social class or caste membership. We will also address the issue of official language policy in African countries, and how this impacts education.

Introduction to Morphology

Audience: undergraduate students

This course is about morphology, the study of word structure. The goals of the course are as follows:

  • To achieve a basic understanding of the variety of morphological patterns and phenomena in the world’s languages.
  • To address questions this variety raises for morphological theory.
  • To explore the tools and analytic techniques of morphological research.
  • To address the often problematic criteria for defining words, morphemes, inflection, derivation, and other “basic” morphological concepts.
Introduction to Semantics

Audience: undergraduate students

This course is an introduction to semantics, that part of linguistics that studies how human languages convey meaning.

The course addresses issues like the nature of meaning, the basic data that semantics aims to account for (ambiguity, synonymy, contradiction, entailment), some simple formal tools that semantics makes use of (sets and related notions), aspects of the interaction between syntax and semantics (scope and the meaning of various syntactic categories), and issues like implicatures and presuppositions, that are usually taken to be part of pragmatics (the subfield of linguistics that studies how meaning depends on context).

The main goal of the class is to introduce students to some core aspects of linguistic meaning that we know more about and give an idea of how they can be accounted for by using precise rules and simple formal tools.

Introduction to Linguistics

Audience: undergraduate students

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The course will introduce you, both in theory and in practice, to the core ideas and methods involved in linguistic analysis. Our investigation will be based around the three major subsystems of grammar: sound (phonetics and phonology); structure (morphology and syntax); and meaning (semantics and pragmatics). The goal is to have you learn to think and reason like a linguist, by surveying the methods, findings, and problems in many major areas of modern linguistics:

  1. Morphology: the structure and formation of words
  2. Syntax: how words are combined to form phrases
  3. Semantics and pragmatics: the analysis of linguistic meaning and use
  4. Phonetics: the production and representation of speech
  5. Phonology: how sounds function and pattern together
  6. Sociolinguistics: the study of use of language in social contexts
  7. Experimental methods in linguistics: how linguists test theories about language

You will also be equipped with some basic and not-so-basic facts about the world’s languages, a fundamental prerequisite to understanding the nature of human language. We will look at the diversity of languages across space and time, their fundamental similarities, and other puzzles. We will address a range of questions about language through an exploration of the following areas: language families and historical relationships, linguistic typology and language universals, sound and structural features of the world’s languages, among others.
By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Describe and give examples of the ways in which human languages are alike and how they differ.
  • Use and understand basic linguistic terminology.
  • Apply the tools of linguistic analysis to the sounds, words, and sentences of a language.
  • Identify languages in terms of their linguistic features and genetic affiliation.
Research Practicum

Audience: graduate students

Course goals:

  • To provide support for preparing internal deliverables: comps papers, qual papers, and dissertations.
  • To provide practical preparation for becoming a successful researcher in linguistics.

The topics covered will include advice on how to: pick a research topic; write abstracts for conferences like LSA, WCCFL, CLS, SALT, etc.; write conference and journal papers; review abstracts and papers; prepare talks and handouts/slides; present your work; prepare grant proposals; land a job in academia or industry; anything else you have always wanted to know about being a linguist but were afraid to ask.

 

 

 

At the University of Chicago

 

 

 

Introduction to Linguistics

Audience: undergraduate students

Linguistics is the scientific study of language. The course will introduce you, both in theory and in practice, to the core ideas and methods involved in linguistic analysis. Our investigation will be based around the three major subsystems of grammar: sound (phonetics and phonology); structure (morphology and syntax); and meaning (semantics and pragmatics). The goal is to have you learn to think and reason like a linguist, by surveying the methods, findings, and problems in many major areas of modern linguistics:

  1. Morphology: the structure and formation of words
  2. Syntax: how words are combined to form phrases
  3. Semantics and pragmatics: the analysis of linguistic meaning and use
  4. Phonetics: the production and representation of speech
  5. Phonology: how sounds function and pattern together
  6. Sociolinguistics: the study of use of language in social contexts
  7. Experimental methods in linguistics: how linguists test theories about language

You will also be equipped with some basic and not-so-basic facts about the world’s languages, a fundamental prerequisite to understanding the nature of human language. We will look at the diversity of languages across space and time, their fundamental similarities, and other puzzles. We will address a range of questions about language through an exploration of the following areas: language families and historical relationships, linguistic typology and language universals, sound and structural features of the world’s languages, among others.
By the end of the course, you should be able to:

  • Describe and give examples of the ways in which human languages are alike and how they differ.
  • Use and understand basic linguistic terminology.
  • Apply the tools of linguistic analysis to the sounds, words, and sentences of a language.
  • Identify languages in terms of their linguistic features and genetic affiliation.
Language and the Human I (Writing instructor)

Audience: undergraduate students

Language is at the center of what it means to be human and is instrumental in most humanistic pursuits. With it, we understand others, describe, plan, narrate, learn, persuade, argue, reason, and think. This course aims to provoke us to critically examine common assumptions that determine our understanding of language—and more specifically, the ways we, as speakers or writers, use it to communicate meaning.

The Autumn Quarter of this sequence explores fundamental questions about the nature of language, concentrating on the conventional character of language as a system, and language in the individual. We discuss: the properties of human languages (spoken and signed) as systems of communication distinct from other forms (including animal and artificial systems), whether some languages are more primitive than others, how language is acquired, used, changes, and evolves, what it means to be bilingual. Typical texts used include Plato’s Cratylus, parts of Finnegans Wake, Locke, Truffaut’s L’enfant sauvage, Turing.

 

 

 

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