Q: course ideas - Lg & Culture, Lgs of the World

Noel Rude nrude at UCINET.COM
Thu Apr 10 03:30:19 UTC 1997


        A number of years ago I helped develop an intro-level undergrad course
titled "Languages of the World".  The course sprang from the observation
that in our obsession with scientific principles most of our students
were terribly ignorant of basic facts.  It seemed good that they should
know something about Bantu.  In all our other courses we teach
principles, methodology, how to DO linguistics, and this is good.  But
we were old fashioned.  We thought students ought to know some specific
facts too.

        The course was organized according to three criteria:  1) Typology
(tone lgs., obstruent typologies, the Schleicherian typologies, areal
phenomena like serialization, etc.), 2) Genetic relationships (students
ought to know about Indo-European, Sino-Tibetan, Bantu, Sumerian, the
diversity in the Americas and New Guinea, etc.), and 3) Geography
(divide the world into regions and learn something specific about each).

        There was a packet of handouts and an article or two, and we used the
two books edited by Timothy Shopen (Languages and their Status, forget
the name of the other) to gave students the opportunity to look at some
"exotic" languages.

        I feel the course was a success.  But alas it's a struggle.  Many
students resist knowing specific facts about the world.  They want to
rap about urban situations, languages in contact, language planning
problems--they don't want to know about Dravidian or where Gilyak is
spoken or the spread of Bantu.  I may sound cynical, but I still think
the effort is worthwhile.


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