Linguistics 320
The Origin and Evolution of Human Language
Prof. Suzanne Kemmer
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Course Schedule

Books, Website and Other Sources

Course Requirements and Grading

Course Requirements

  • Assigned Readings
  • Short quizzes on assigned readings prior to when class reading is discussed (TBA)
  • 2 short reading responses to assigned articles (different students will write on different articles and will post them for all to access.)
  • Participation in discussions and collaborative in-class activities (attendance is expected; email me when you cannot come to class so I know you are not coming. )
  • One short summary/review of recent research in a particular area (choice of area to be agreed on by student and instructor)
  • Minimum 2 contributions to communal course resources--good links, uploaded papers, relevant online lectures (e.g. TED or other), or other materials
  • 2 group projects presented in class as a Powerpoint and submitted electronically (will become part of course resources accessible to all). Powerpoints need to include "credits" (as in a movie): who did what
  • contribution to your 2 group presentation write-ups (group will agree on which student writes what part)
  • As the above shows, there are no exams in the course.


    Grading of the work will be based primarily on quality of the content of the work (quality of your ideas, your generalizations based on evidence gathered, your understanding of how other researchers' ideas fit together, clear referencing of claims and assumptions used in building your argument, and organizational coherence that can allows the argument to be understood and followed). As a secondary criterion, I also take account of the professionalism of the written work and Powerpoints. Anything that detracts from professionalism--typos, misspellings, poor organization, etc. will affect the grade as well.

    Content and form are not always precisely distinguishable when assessing quality of a project. With a Powerpiont, the structure gives you an easy way to organize your thoughts, but it is still possible to present a project in Powerpoint form that does not show a coherent progression of ideas, that therefore cannot be used easily by others to gain new knowledge. Try always to consider your work from another person's point of view - is your work teaching them something?

    In general, in assessment of a project the following considerations are of great importance: How easy is it for others seeing the Powerpoint to absorb an understanding of the project? Have you made a convincing case for whatever claims or generalizations you are trying to establish in your project? Providing and referencing evidence to support your points is crucial. If you are assessing other researchers' work, are your assessments based on evidence from other work that you can bring to bear on what the researchers are claiming?

    I expect students' Powerpoints and written work to be of sufficient quality that they can be posted/archived on the course website as additional resources for students and scholars searching for information on the particular topics of the course.

    Overall Course Grade

    The overall course grade will be based on:
    1. quality of written work as described above
    2. quality of student's part of group presentations
    3. completion of quizzes and short reading responses, short summary of recent research in an area as assigned
    4. presence and engagement - quality of other contributions to the course such as contributing to class discussions (largely dependent on reading the readings in time for the class discussion, and making an effort to say something about them) and to the course website
    For the sake of class atmosphere, please do not use your phones in the classroom, or use your computer for social media or web surfing during the class.