Foundations of Linguistics Homepage

Course Description

Fall 2009 Suzanne Kemmer

Ling 403: Foundations of Linguistics is a course about the ideas that have shaped the field of Linguistics today.

In this Proseminar, or small discussion group course, we will read some classic, highly influential texts in Linguistics that not only shaped the ideas of earlier generations of linguists, but still resonate today in the basic assumptions or contested issues in the field.

The primary aim of the course is to identify a number of the most seminal ideas in the history of the field, and also perhaps some neglected or unnoticed ideas that now seem very relevant. The purpose of the discussions and writings is to individually or collectively respond to these ideas in light of our current knowledge of the work done in Linguistics today.

A secondary aim of the course is to set the Linguistic ideas we discuss into relation with ideas in the other social sciences, and possibly even other fields, in their historical context.

Course instructor, meetings, contact

Instructor: Suzanne Kemmer
Class meetings: Tuesday/Thursdays 1:00-2:30, Herring 125
Instructor contact: Herring Hall 209; ext. 6225; email: kemmer AT
Office hours:T/Th 10:45-11:45 and by appointment


For full references see Reading List in sidebar.

Tentative list of authors of the course readings
Hermann Osthoff and Karl Brugmann - 1870s
Ferdinand de Saussure - post-1916
Franz Boas - 1911
Edward Sapir - 1921
Leonard Bloomfield - 1930s
Benjamin Lee Whorf - 1940s
Charles Hockett - 1950s
Joseph Greenberg 1950s, early 60s
Noam Chomsky - late 1950s, 1960s

Authors in recommended readings or otherwise referred to
Karl Verner - 1870s
Hermann Paul - 1880s
Otto Jespersen - 1920s
Zellig Harris - 1950s, early 60s

Course requirements


If you have a documented disability that will impact your work in this class, please contact me to discuss your needs. Additionally, you will need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in the Ley Student Center.

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