Each course in this series tackles basic linguistic topics through explanations, videos & activities. Specific lessons are organized below.
Overview of Linguistics
A very brief overview that introduces how linguists study human language. Learn about theoretical linguistics, descriptive linguistics and applied linguistics.
A short introduction to an ongoing controversy about the definition and origin of language, which often picks up the themes of the nature-nurture debate.
Does language shape the way we think? What is the relationship between language and culture? Learn more as Benjamin Lee Whorf and modern psychologists try to unravel the details.
How do words and other signs mean something? How is meaning studied? Get a brief idea of the various approaches to meaning in language.
Basics of Pronunciation
The features of human speech, including components of consonants & vowels. How to distinguish phonemes (speech sounds) and write them in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Learn to transcribe each speech sound using one and only one symbol.
Practical pronunciation in human languages. How to apply your knowledge of speech sounds and the IPA to the pronunciation system of a foreign language.
Basics of Grammar & Structure
How words are built in language, including tendencies and differences ampong languages. Solidify your understanding of morphemes (the building blocks of words) and parts of speech.
How to build sentences in languages. Compare different techniques used in foreign languages and learn to account for those structures with simple rules.
The core role that the verb plays in a sentence. Come to understand noun phrases as arguments of a verb.
An introduction to the structure of sentences and the generative models used to produce them. Learn to model the grammar of entire sentences using parse trees and how to navigate the branches of those trees. See how X-Bar notation captures the relation between a variety of phrases and word classes.
A very quick introduction to Optimality Theory. This linguistic model treats grammar as a system of ranked, violable, competing constraints instead of a set of unbreakable rules. Use the analogy of two friends deciding on their plans for the night to get an intuitive sense of this model, then use the same insights to analyze the pronunciation of plural -s in English.
Language History & Historical Linguistics
How languages change over time, how some languages are related. Compare cognates in languages to put together family trees. Discover the hidden ancestors of modern languages through reconstruction.
Specific sound changes with examples of each change, including assimilation, lenition, metathesis, differences between sporadic vs. regular sound change, and more.
Where do words come from? Learn to use the tools of historical linguistics to read and even build simple etymologies, with attention to sound change and meaning change.
Logic & Language
A range of lessons exploring a logical take on language and arguments can be found at the logic page.
Resources & Extra Materials
Heavy on morphology. Adapted from my book Native Grammar.
A selection of large or potentially interesting language families. Includes an introduction, simplified maps and bulleted explanations. Also adapted from the appendix of Native Grammar.