This seminar introduces students to a theory of language called usage-based linguistics, which aims to understand the current structure, the diachronic change and the acquisition of language as a product of how the human mind operates on the usage data that it has been exposed to. A key tenet of this approach is that the entirety of our native-language knowledge emerges directly from our experience with language, without any “help” from innate grammatical machinery. Therefore, we will explore the specific ways in which human beings store and categorise the language around them and how we pick up on many statistical patterns of the stuff we hear and read on a daily basis. This perspective will help us to explain both the regularities and many exceptional quirks of English (and other languages), especially in the domains of morphology and syntax. Overall, then, the course offers students a modern, comprehensive perspective on language that accommodates many of the phenomena they may have encountered during their studies and invites them to see linguistic structure in a new light.
The module ends with a final exam (first week of the break, Monday, July 10, 2-4 p.m.).