Introduction to Linguistics: 4 hours, 4 credits

Instructor: Rennie Gonsalves
Office: 1420 Ingersoll; Tel.: 718-951-5287
E-mail address:

Fall, 2017: Section TY2, code # 17458;
Office Hours: Tuesdays 8:00-9:00 & 12:30-1:30, and Thursdays 8:00-9:00 in 1420 Ingersoll
Class meetings: Tuesdays 2:15-3:30 PM, and Thursdays 1:25-3:30 in 2154 Boylan

Spring, 2018: Section TY2B, code # 66187
Office Hours: Tuesdays 9:00-10:00 & 12:30-1:30, and Thursdays 9:00-10:00 in 1420 Ingersoll
Class meetings: Tuesdays 2:15-3:30 PM, and Thursdays 1:25-3:30 in 2150 Boylan>

Course Description:

This course will introduce the core areas of linguistics: phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. It will also introduce several other selected areas of linguistics, including historical linguistics, first and second language acquisition, and neurolinguistics. In spite of our very stringent time constraints, we will try to make it possible for students to investigate and report on other areas of linguistics covered in the text; these areas include psycholinguistics, natural sign language, sociolinguistics, writing systems, animal communication, and computational linguistics.

The main focus of the course will be on the core areas. Readings from the course text will introduce the general methodology and basic ideas in each of these areas and will be accompanied in each case by appropriate exercises and problems. The readings will provide the groundwork for doing the problems and we will go over them in class. Participation in class assignments will be especially important. You should come to class having read the assigned reading and done the problems so that you will be prepared to present and discuss problem solutions with the rest of the class. Occasionally groups of students will be assigned specific problems; each group will work on its problem and then present a solution to the larger class. I will form groups during the first week of classes and we will use these groups throughout the semester.

One further comment: the material in this course is substantial and sometimes fairly technical. You will probably find it challenging. However, if you read the text carefully, do the exercises in the study guide, and actively participate in class when we discuss the concepts and go over the exercises, you should be able to do very well, and you will definitely learn a lot about the nature of language.  In addition, I will set up study groups on Blackboard—the same groups that we will form during the first week.  You should use the discussion board on your group page to help each other study the material in the course. I have set aside three class sessions at the end of the semester for group presentations.  We will talk about the nature of these presentations during the first week—they will be based on material from our text.


Course Objectives:


By the end of this course you should be able to

·         demonstrate a knowledge of how languages are similar and how they may differ;

·         use the concepts of  linguistics to describe a variety of linguistic phenomena;

·         apply the tools of linguistic analysis to the sounds, words, and sentences of a language;

·         explain how languages change over time and give specific examples of language change;

·         discuss important discoveries concerning first and second language acquisition;

·         describe the findings of neurolinguistics concerning how and where language is

            processed in the brain

(Course objectives adapted from Contemporary Linguistics instructors’ manual)



Course Texts (Required and Available at the Brooklyn College Bookstore in Boylan Hall; You should have these texts with you on the first day of class.):


O’Grady, William, et al., editors, Contemporary Linguistics; An Introduction, seventh edition.  Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.

O’Grady, William, et al., Study Guide for Contemporary Linguistics, seventh edition, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.