Description of Course Goals and CurriculumThis course is a broad survey of many topics studied in the field of linguistics. In the first half of this course, Dr. Ross-Feldman covered phonetics/phonology, morphology, the lexicon, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics as described in the course description. The second half covered more of the bioneurological elements of language, language disorders, language acquisition, and variants of certain languages. The first half was more cumulative in that morphology builds from phonology, phonology builds from phonetics, etc. The second half seemed more scattered – there was less connection between subsequent topics in comparison to the first half. The most difficult part about this class was that the lecture slides were not posted online – the professor expects lecture to essentially be a review of what was covered in the book chapters (which you are expected to read before class), and to expand on topics that the book does not cover thoroughly. Thus you may have to adapt different reading/note-taking strategies in comparison to traditional PowerPoint oriented lectures given by professors who post the slides online following the class session in order to get the most out of lecture. There were no outstanding hidden expectations – this is an intro class, after all. The only caveat with problem sets is that no collaboration with other students is allowed.
Learning From Classroom InstructionThis course is centered on application of linguistic methodologies and tools. Your grade is composed of problem sets, exams, and precept participation (but primarily the former two). Written assignments will require you to apply the methods that you have learned, in addition to recalling a modest quantity of theory and factual information. Though in order to maximize your understanding in lecture it may be helpful to do the reading beforehand, the reading was not so necessary for doing well on the assignments. Lecture is a quick overview of topics that were covered in reading and a preview of what will be covered in written assignments. As mentioned, the lecture slides are not posted online and are not very text-heavy. It may be more helpful to listen what the professor says and write down key take-aways with pen and notebook – computers are not allowed during lecture. Alluding to the point that reading before lecture is not necessary to do well in the course grade-wise, it is noteworthy to mention that problem sets and the final were open-book/notes. So if there is something specific that you missed from lecture, you simply need to remember or find out where in the book the corresponding material is located. Precept is very helpful to attend for this course. It is what links the theory covered in lecture to practice that is assessed on written assignments. It usually begins with a review of the topics covered in lecture followed by some practice examples from the book. Hence, it is important to come prepared with your textbook. Since the most important lecture material is reviewed in precept, it is not necessary to review lecture notes before precept. Lecture notes should be more of a method of retention of key take-aways. However, it might be helpful to review examples covered in precept soon afterwards. This could expedite completion of the problem sets, as the problems assigned are similar in structure and material to that which is covered in precept.
Learning For and From AssignmentsThe problem sets in this class are mainly designed to help you practice the methods that are covered in lecture. There is not much factual recall included. The specific structure of the homework problems will not be exactly like the examples covered in precept. However, the precept problems will be similar in content and methodology relative to the homework, so it is very helpful to attend precept. In preparing for problem sets, it may be helpful to review precept notes. Since assignments are open-book/notes, it might be useful to consult the syllabus for direction with respect to matching book chapters to topics covered in specific lectures. No collaboration with other students is allowed on the problem sets, so be sure to seek out the help of a preceptor or the professor if you are having issues with the material. There are two exams in this course: a midterm and a final. The midterm is a timed in-class exam, and the problems look a lot like the homework problems both in structure and methodology. If you have reviewed precept material and can do the homework problems without fault or hesitation, then you will be in good shape for the midterm. The final was an open-book/notes exam that you could work on over the course of several days, so there shouldn't be an issue of time. There may be some problems that look like the homework/midterm problems, in addition to some memory recall. Your notes from lecture, precept, and the book can be of use. Note that you cannot use the internet or lecture slides (past years included) for this exam, but you should not need them so long as you are able to find where certain topics are located in the book. There are also no exams available from previous years.
External ResourcesYouTube videos could be helpful in understanding how different languages, vernacular, and accents have developed alongside each other, and in understanding how neurological disorders affect communication in real life. Since you cannot collaborate with other students on the problem sets, the preceptors and professor try to make themselves available if you are having trouble with a specific topic or methodology. If you can't meet with your specific preceptor, seek out another one or the professor.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course SelectionThis is a great course to take as a distribution requirement. It is usually referred to as an easy class to get a good grade in, and a fail-proof P/D/F option. My experience was pretty supportive of these claims. However, people sometimes fail to mention the interesting nature of the material covered. Dr. Ross-Feldman did a great job of incorporating anecdotes and including findings from current research in linguistics into lectures, which made the information sound a lot more relevant, relatable, and simply interesting. Especially if you are P/D/F'ing, this is a great opportunity to have the experience of putting the pen down and engaging with the material in the moment by just listening and thinking – something that you probably wish you could do more of in your other classes. Since this course is a well-encompassing survey of topics in linguistics that you can further pursue at Princeton, anyone who is even slightly considering the linguistics certificate should take it. Overall the workload is relatively light, reasonable, and enjoyable.
Introduction to Language and Linguistics