Course code:



M - Intermediate

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

This course explores the basic questions concerning the origins, nature, history, functions, and philosophical significances of human languages. Comparisons to other species and to machine languages will also be examined. Readings will include classics texts by Chomsky and others as well selected materials from diverse disciplines such as linguistic anthropology, psychology, ethology, aesthetics, history of languages, and philosophy. Class sessions will include a mix of discussion, lecture, and visiting speakers. Each student will undertake a term-long project examining some topic of interest and examine it from the point of view of the different disciplines and theories covered in the course. Project topics might include, for example: the development of identity, the articulation of gender, forms of representation, the expression of emotion, concepts of rationality, relations between meaning and truth, and communication in an age of artificial intelligences. The goals of the course are: 1) to familiarize students with the range of phenomena associated with language and the principal questions they raise and the theories used to interpret them, and 2) to develop skills in researching interdisciplinary questions. Assignments will include two problem sets, a series of weekly homework exercises, and the term project which must be presented both orally and in a major paper due at the end of the term. Evaluation will be based on the extent to which in-class participation and work on the assignments demonstrates substantive progress on the two goals of the course. There are no specific prerequisites, but students will be expected to be able to contribute insights, information, and questions from previous work in relevant disciplines and/or studies of languages, undertake challenging readings, and pursue a major independent project.




Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.