The ultimate aim of teaching is for everyone to be satisfied with their individual progress. I support an incremental approach in which the basic needs to be worked on before complex phenomena are introduced. At the end of a course, learners should be able to use the subject matter on their own in various situations instead of simply reproducing the content. My current position as research assistant allowed me to hold many different courses and methodological seminars at intermediate and graduate levels.
In the first 12 months of life, children possess the amazing ability to differentiate various speech sounds, even if they are not used phonologically in the language of the surrounding. Interestingly, this ability vanishes within a short time around the first birthday, so that adults perform significantly worse when confronted with this task. This turning point towards being specialized to perceive and produce phonemes of the native language comes at the cost of losing sensitivity to further phonetic detail. In this course, we examine this process in depth, answering the basic question: How does a functioning phonological system develop? Further, the implications for foreign language acquisition will be explained. Pronunciation errors are not only due to insufficient control over the articulators. The individual phoneme system of L1 interferes and impedes the acquisition process. Thus, this course also introduces different models and theories concerning language acquisition and follows the phonological development from L1 to Ln. In addition to phonetics and phonology, this course draws upon psycholinguistics to demonstrate the cognitive mechanisms involved in language processing. Students will be able to explain the complex interplay of general learning mechanisms and input. Further, they will be able to take a position concerning different theories and models about the cognitive organization of speech sounds and language acquisition.
Introduction to Linguistics
Having and using a language as a handy tool for communication is taken for granted by most people; the workings behind it are largely unseen. In this introductory class, we will reveal the mechanisms and processes which are involved in producing and perceiving utterances. Taking the English language as an example, we examine speech sounds and their combination, have a look at morphemes as the smallest building blocks of language and see how words and phrases are combined for meaningful utterances among other things. Having established the core concepts and theories in different linguistic areas, the communicative function of language and the importance of context for meaning will be a major concern. Moreover, Students will gain knowledge about the historical development as well as different varieties of the English language. At the end of this course, students will have gained an overview of the great field of linguistics and will be able to describe and analyse particular phenomena of (the English) language regarding phonetics, morphology, syntax, semantic, pragmatic, sociolinguistic and historical linguistic. Students will be familiar with important notions, concepts and theories to set the ground for future in-depth linguistic studies.
Phonetics and Phonology
The medium through which most of us experience language nearly all the time is sound. Not only because this is usually our first contact with language but also because interacting with people is so important in everyday life. A major role can thereby be assigned to our unique human vocal tract as it allows the production of very distinct speech sounds. How speech sounds are used in (the English) language is the focus of this course. We will start with an investigation of the articulatory processes involved in the production of sounds and go on with investigating the physical properties to make out differences between them and to get a better understanding of the way humans perceive these sounds. In this context, we will also deal with transcribing spoken language with the help of the IPA. Having dealt with phonetics, the second half of the semester is mainly about phonology. Not only the combinations and relations between phonemes will be discussed, but the subject of rapid speech will also be raised, as the different types of coarticulation are focused on. Moreover, suprasegmentals, for example, intonation and stress, will be studied. All of these examinations will be exemplified by English to a great extent but other languages and their characteristics concerning phonetics and phonology will be pointed out and analysed as well. Taking cognitive linguistics into account is the last part of this course, where issues concerning perceiving and recognising speech sounds will be raised, especially considering variation in phonemes.
Note: Although it might be useful, this course is not designed for improvement of English pronunciation. Students are expected to have basic knowledge in phonetics and phonology.
Conversational interaction is one of the cornerstones not only of human social life but also whole societies depend on oral communication to function. After all, talking is the most common and prevalent way for people to engage with each other. In that, people are astoundingly strict at adhering to certain underlying rules that organise the everyday conversation. The issues of who talks when and for how long or how to deal with misunderstanding need to be negotiated between the interlocutors in the given situation. The aim of Conversation Analysis (CA) is to describe and analyse the stable practices that people deploy to structure their conversations. To work out patterns, single instances of talk-in-interaction as well as collections of cases are examined. This course will first introduce students to the constitutive features of everyday conversation for example turn-construction, action formation or sequencing. Based on this knowledge, methods and analytic procedures used in CA will be applied to recordings of spoken language. In the end, students will be able to transcribe and analyse phenomena in everyday conversation and are expected to hand in a term paper which examines a particular aspect found in interactions recorded by the students themselves.
Cognitive linguistics is an approach to the analysis of natural language that originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s and focuses on language as an instrument for organizing, processing, and conveying information. One of the central tenets of cognitive linguistics is that language reflects the way we categorize and conceptualize the world. The course introduces key concepts of this field. Different theories of categorization will be presented and the importance of prototypicality considered. Apart from that, we will see human cognition in general but also more specifically the organization of grammar is dependent on metaphors. We will work out the processes behind linguistic structuring of space, time and causation and finally discuss the Sapir-Whorf-hypothesis, which claims that our linguistic knowledge determines the way we see and understand the world. The aim of this course is to acquaint students with the basic principles of Cognitive Linguistics, as well as with some of the most important cognitive models and approaches, so that they can apply one of these models to (certain areas of) the English language. Upon completion of the course, the student should be able to use basic concepts in their analysis such as categorisation, prototype, and metaphor and have a basic understanding of different schools of thought concerning the relationship between thought and language.
Methods in Linguistics
There is a point in every student’s carrier at which the theoretical knowledge gained in lectures is to be used practically in a research project. This can prove to be quite difficult as problems concerning acquisition and analysis of data come up. This course will ease the way from theory to practice by introducing basic methods for empirical linguistic research. Firstly, students will get to know what it means to carry out linguistic research and which possibilities there are to examine particular phenomena in language. Once we learned how to gather and differentiate between different types of data, an introduction to descriptive statistics and statistical analysis will be given using well-known tools. Another important step is a proper interpretation of the outcomes regarding the research question to be able to draw reliable conclusions. The whole process behind linguistic research will be examined in this course; from constructing hypotheses over gathering, analysing and interpreting data to present findings appropriately. Students will be able to verify hypotheses by efficiently dealing with language as an object of investigation for successfully conducting studies on their own.