Alternative Intro Ling courses

Carol Genetti cgenetti at
Wed Dec 8 21:42:07 UTC 2010

FYI, I am in the process of putting together a textbook introducing the 
field from a functional-typological perspective, with primary chapters by 
Matthew Gordon (phonetics, phonology), Marianne Mithun (morphology, 
language change), myself (intro, word classes, syntax, fieldwork and lg 
documentation), Wallace Chafe (discourse, prosody), Michael Israel 
(semantics), Mira Ariel (pragmatics), Bernard Comrie (Typology), Alexandra 
Aikhenvald (language contact and areal linguistics), Mary Bucholtz 
(sociolinguistics), Patricia Clancy (first-language acquisition), and Jan 
Frodesen and Dorothy Chun (second-language acquisition). In addition, the 
book will contain fourteen  "language profiles", studies of individual 
languages from around the globe, each of which provides a basic overview of 
the situation and core typological features of the langauge, then focuses 
on one particular facet ties into a main chapters. The title will be "How 
languages work", and it is slated to be published by Cambridge University 
Press, we hope by the end of 2011.

The book teaches core structural linguistics and analysis, but I am hopeful 
that there will be enough other materials to make a rich course for 
students who will not be continuing in linguistics.

The textbook will have an associated website, with lots of materials, such 
as sound files, "how to" sheets, interactive homework sets, PowerPoints, 
etc. This has been years in the making, but we are now moving towards 
completion. We'll circulate an announcement once it is in press.

Carol Genetti

--On Wednesday, December 08, 2010 3:23 PM -0600 Charles C Rice 
<cxr1086 at> wrote:

> Looks like a good outline for a textbook, Johanna.
> There's one that resembles your outline a bit, Introducing Language in
> Use, by Bloomer, Griffiths, and Merrison. They have the usual chapter on
> pragmatics, mostly Grice, but it is preceded by a chapter on Conversation
> Analysis and followed by one on power and politeness. The drawback is that
> it is British, so most of the example are suited to a British audience.
> Have you looked at Curzan and Adams, How English Works? The benefit of
> that one is that it focuses on English more specifically. You lose the
> dimension of cross-linguistic comparison but they can therefore squeeze in
> topics more specifically oriented to American English--more details on
> dialects, discussions of classroom issues, history of English.
> Clai Rice
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: funknet-bounces at [mailto:funknet-
>> bounces at] On Behalf Of Johanna Rubba
>> Sent: Tuesday, December 07, 2010 5:00 PM
>> To: funknet at
>> Subject: [FUNKNET] Alternative Intro Ling courses
>> Hi,
>> Is anyone else out there looking for a textbook for intro linguistics
> for
>> non-majors that does not take an exclusively generative line? Does
> anyone
>> know of books that deal primarily with aspects of language that are
>> practically useful for non-majors? Well-educated citizens need to know
>> about things like language/dialect prejudice, myths concerning bilingual
>> education, myths concerning first-language acquisition, some information
>> about language history and the history of English, the horrendous state
> of
>> grammar instruction in our schools, the fakeness of "language experts"
>> like John Simon, propaganda techniques, results of critical discourse
>> analysis concerning things like racism, sexism and heterosexism,
> language
>> policy, the role of frames/schemas in everyday life, pragmatics and
> speech
>> acts, a deeper understanding of semantics beyond entailment,
> implicature,
>> semantic features, utterance vs. sentence meaning, and the "nyms," the
>> role of information flow in discourse structure, and perhaps a basic
>> understanding of how linguistics can be applied to the study of
> literature
>> (for English majors, at least; most of my intro students are English
>> majors).
>> I know that a number of these topics are covered in existing textbooks,
>> but a number are not. Also, existing textbooks do a poor job of
> addressing
>> the lexicon, if they address it at all. The work that has been done on
> the
>> network model, usage-based models, prototypes, categorization, and the
>> role of schemas/frames in word definition are lacking in most textbooks
>> (some allude to prototype theory, but very cursorily).
>> Intro textbooks, even those that advertise themselves as being for non-
>> linguists, such as Parker & Riley's _Linguistics for non-linguists_ and
>> Denham and Lobeck's _Linguistics for everyone_, fill their pages mostly
>> with the core subjects (phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, and
> the
>> poor treatment of semantics described above). They do have a significant
>> amount of space devoted to some of the above topics, but I don't think
>> teachers can deal with all of them in a single term (and especially not
> a
>> ten-week quarter, which it is my fate to teach in). And too many
> textbooks
>> teach generative theory as god's truth; they address counterarguments
>> minimally, and often by trundling out old data, like island constraints.
>> They bring in data that, from their point of view, prove modularity and
>> Universal Grammar, but they never address specifically any arguments
> that
>> non-generativists make; they simply say that the data (e.g., genetic
>> language disability or "linguistic savants") prove their theory beyond
> the
>> shadow of a doubt. One could easily get the impression that they don't
>> think of their theory as theory (whether they intend this or not), but
> as
>> proven fact, with any challenges not being worthy of their attention.
>> People are still writing these textbooks as though we are training
> future
>> linguists who already have an intrinsic interest in the details of
>> language structure. I have ten weeks to give my students their only
>> introduction to the scientific study of language. I don't see any point
> in
>> these students learning to solve phonology problems or draw tree
> diagrams
>> for a tiny fraction of the sentence types that exist in English. I don't
>> see the point of having them learn how to build a linguistic argument
>> based on structural data. I'm not even sure how important it is for them
>> to understand speech articulation in the detail seen in most intro ling
>> textbooks. I'd far prefer that they learn to think critically about the
>> language - and language about language - that exists around them. I'm
> sure
>> this would engage them far more (my most popular course is Language and
>> Gender). When I do exit surveys in my classes, I ask for the most
>> important single idea they will take away from my course. The vast
>> majority of the students respond with something about dialect prejudice.
>> Many, many say they will never again judge a person based on the way
> they
>> speak. There may have been some students who have mentioned learning to
>> solve phonology problems or drawing tree diagrams, but I could count
> them
>> on one hand. Students seem to *want* the understanding of language that
>> they *need*.
>> It would be interesting to know what most linguists believe is necessary
>> knowledge about language for the non-major. Many, many linguists work at
>> institutions at which they never train graduate students and have
> teaching
>> loads and service obligations that severely limit their research efforts
>> (like me; I teach nine courses in the typical year, and do an average
>> amount of committee work, which I actually like to do). Many of us teach
>> only courses that require no previous linguistics training.
>> I'm teaching intro ling to English majors in winter quarter (starts
> early
>> Jan.). I'm going to spend my winter break thinking up field exercises or
>> activities that will "sex up" the course. And I'm using Language Files
>> 10th edition. Not a great book, but I haven't found a better one for
>> undergraduates. Finegan's _Language: its structure and use_ covers a lot
>> of the territory I'm looking for, but it's not easily managed on a
> quarter
>> system, the chapters on phonology and syntax are confusing, and the
> level
>> may be above what my undergrads can handle.
>> Any thoughts, suggestions, practices you'd be willing to share? Or:
> Help!
>> Best,
>> Jo
>> Dr. Johanna Rubba, Professor, Linguistics
>> Linguistics Minor Advisor
>> English Department
>> California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
>> E-mail: jrubba at
>> Tel.: 805.756.2184
>> Dept. Ofc. Tel.: 805.756.2596
>> Dept. Fax: 805.756.6374
>> URL:

More information about the Funknet mailing list