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Linguistics 490 Syllabus

Fall Semester 2002

Location240 CTB
8:00-8:50 AM, Tuesday and Thursday
InstructorDr. Alan K. Melby
TAMike Manookin

This syllabus is subject to revision during the semester if class needs warrant. Any changes will be announced and sent out on the class mailing list. It is your responsibility to check your e-mail and attend class so that you know of revisions.

Course Objectives

Linguistics 490 is intended to provide you with a broader context on linguistics and help you synthesize your linguistic knowledge. There are two goals of this course: (1) to help you understand the philosophical roots of modern linguistics and (2) to help you evaluate academic research in the form of an issue research paper.

The assignments for the class will correspond to these objectives. 90% of your final grade will come from these two areas (40% from (1), 50% from (2)) with the remaining 10% of your grade coming from attendance and participation.

Course Requirements

This course requires a considerable amount of reading, especially when we cover The Linguistics Wars. You should allow yourself enough time to read the material indicated in the course calendar before you come to class. Some of the material presented will be relatively complex and may require careful study to be properly understood. In class we will attempt to pull together strands of the readings to show what fundamental issues and positions are represented and help you see the big picture. Class participation is essential as most class periods will be spent in discussion of the readings rather than in detailed lecture-type presentations of the readings. If you are having trouble with a concept, it is likely that other students are as well, so take advantage of class time to discuss those topics that you feel need clarification and discussion.

Grading will be based on the following assignments:

Points Assignment
  Late Policy. Late work will not be accepted unless prior arrangements are made with Mike.
75 Attendance Policy. Your final attendance score will be calculated according to a linear formula where positive points will be given for attendance and tardies, but 3 tardies are exactly equal to one absence. Additionally, attendance for each guest lecture will be worth three times a normal lecture.
25 Participation. We will rely on you to evaluate your own participation as part of the final, but reserve the right to assign a grade if we feel that your self-assessment is inaccurate.
50 Annotated Bibliography. There needs to be a minimum of six annotations, three from each opposing view. This assignment will generally receive all the points just by giving a good effort with the following exceptions: late (see the late policy above), less than 3 pages (-33% for each page less than 3), missing an annotation (-15% for each missing annotation), or a clear lack of effort (this is left to the grader's discretion).
100 Synopsis/Outline of Research Paper. This assignment will generally receive all the points just by giving a good effort with the following exceptions: late (see the late policy above), less than 4 pages (-25% for each page less than 4), missing a required section (-15% for each missing section), or a clear lack of effort (this is left to the grader's discretion).
50 Paper Abstract. These points are given for the abstract written for your main paper. The abstract must be no more than one page and be in a style that will be explained. This assignment will generally receive all the points just by giving a good effort with the following exceptions: late (see the late policy above), missing a required section (-25% for each missing section, note that there should be no section headings in an abstract, simply describe the two issues, methodology, and conclusion in the body of the abstract), or a clear lack of effort (this is left to the grader's discretion).
150 Draft of paper. If you are satisfied with the grade you receive on the draft you can apply the grade toward the final draft as well and not revise the paper.
150 Final paper.
200 2 Reading Quizzes (100 points each). There will be two quizzes to evaluate your reading that you will take in the Testing Center. These quizzes are comprised of multiple choice, true/false, and matching questions. The first quiz will cover Search for the Perfect Language and the second will cover The Linguistics Wars.
100 2 Midterm Exams (50 points each). Tests will consist of matching, multiple choice, short answer, and true/false questions.
100 Final Exam. The final will consist of questions similar to the ones in each of the three tests. (This means that if you did well on the tests and understood the questions and concepts the final will be easy.)
1000 Total points

You will receive a final grade based on your percentage of total points according to the following scale:


Research Paper

You may choose one of three options for the research paper. All of the options must treat an unresolved issue with two sides. Each side should have prominent supporting arguments and data.

1. In addition to an issue, you must formulate a methodology in order to argue your side of the issue.

2. You may leave out the difficult aspect in option 1 of taking a stance and presenting an argumentation (including a methodology) for it. In this case, you will only present pros and cons for each side, but not come to a conclusion as to which side is more valid and thus not need a methodology for deciding. The paper must still be 10-15 pages. Choosing this option automatically nets you a 50 point loss on both the draft and final papers, for a total of 100 points deducted from the 300 possible.

3. You may replace the argumentation for one of the two sides of the issue with a detailed description of an experiment that, if carried out, would determine the answer to the issue. This option also excludes a methodology, but there is no point penalty. The 100 points usually awarded for the methodology will instead be determined by your ability to formulate a feasible and appropriate experiment that can lend insight into the issue. The same basic principles apply to this task as to formulating a methodology. Remember that the most elegant research generally tests a single variable in a way that is not subject to ambiguous interpretation.

While there is no set length for the paper you must make it long enough to cover the subject and short enough to be interesting. As a general guideline 10-15 pages (double-spaced) should be enough to cover your subject, but length will not be a factor in grading unless a paper is manifestly too short or is extremely long-winded. The paper should demonstrate synthetic thinking and an awareness and understanding of not only the technical details of your subject, but also of more general philosophic and practical issues as well. Potential issues for discussion need not be limited to those we discuss in class, but may also represent issues of interest to you from outside reading or studies; the paper must, however, deal with an issue that is primarily linguistic in nature.

While we are aware that there are many effective writing styles, this paper must be written as an issue paper, not as a research report or exposition of theory. Grading will be based primarily on your paper's content, but adherence to the issue paper format and mechanical aspects of the paper will also be considered. The paper requires the use of a specific format. A detailed style guide and an overview of acceptable writing styles is published right here on the class syllabus online. If you have any questions or need some help in this area, please contact Mike.


We will be using the following texts in Linguistics 490:

Title and Author Other Information
1 The Linguistics Wars, Randy Allen Harris available in the BYU Bookstore text department
1995 (reprint edition), softcover, Oxford University Press, ISBN: 019509834X
2 The Search for the Perfect Language
(The Making of Europe)
, Umberto Eco
available in the BYU Bookstore text department
1997 (reprint edition), softcover, Blackwell Publishers, ISBN: 0631205101

Course Calendar

Month Day Date Topic Reading Assignment Due
January Tue 7 Introduction    
Thu 9 Pre-20th Century Linguistics 1 Chapters 1 & 2 (SFPL)  
Tue 13 Alan Manning - Reading, Writing, and Research Chapters 3 & 4 (SFPL)  
Thu 16 Pre-20th Century Linguistics 2 "Fixation of Belief"  
Tue 21 Black Magic, Proto-Linguistics, Lull, Dante & Kabbalism Abductive Logic Paper Annotated Bibliography
Thu 23 Mono-Geneticism & Universal Characters Chapter 5 (SPFL)  
Tue 28 A Priori Philosophical Languages & Leibniz Chapters 10 & 14 (SPFL)  
Thu 30 International Auxiliary Languages Chapter 16 & 17 (SPFL)  
February Tue 4 Conclusion to Search for the Perfect Language   Synopsis/Outline
Thu 6 20th Century Linguistics 1   Quiz 1: Sep 30-Oct 5
Tue 11 20th Century Linguistics 2    
Thu 13 Paper Overview Chapters 1 & 2 (LW) Exam 1: Oct 7-12
Tue 18 Friday Class Instruction Chapter 3 (LW)  
Thu 20 Chomskyan Linguistics Chapter 4 (LW)  
Tue 25 Noam Chomsky Chapter 5 (LW)  
Thu 27 Deep Structure & Generative Semantics Chapter 7 (LW)  
March Tue 4 The Vicissitudes of War 1   Quiz 2: Oct 28-Nov 2
Thu 6 NO CLASS--DLLSThe Vicissitudes of War 2   Paper Draft, Abstract
Tue 11 Conclusion to The Linguistics Wars    
Thu 13 Alan Manning - Discourse Analysis "How to Make Our Ideas Clear"  
Tue 18 Deryle Lonsdale - Semantics   Exam 2: Nov 11-16
Thu 20 Deryle Lonsdale - Pragmatics    
Tue 25 Royal Skousen - Analogical Modeling of Language    
Thu 27 Alan Manning - Charles Sanders Peirce "What is a Sign?"  
April Tue 1 No Class - Work on Paper!    
Thu 3 Artificial Intelligence    
Tue 8 The (Alan) Turing Test    
Thu 10 Careers in Linguistics   Final Paper
Tue 15 Careers in Linguistics   Final Paper
Sat 19 Final Exam 11 am-2 pm Exam 3: Dec 9-12

Contact Information

You can contact Dr. Melby in the following ways:

office telephone422-2144
home telephone377-0934
office hours (2148 JKHB) 10-11 am, 2-3 pm Tuesday and Thursday
mail Dr. Alan K. Melby
BYU Department of Linguistics
2129 JKHB
Provo, Utah 84602
pager to contact Dr. Melby by pager in emergency situations only,
please contact Phyllis in the linguistics office (2129 JKHB),
Mike Manookin, or Ulla-Britta Sandholm Melby, Dr. Melby's wife, (377-0934).

You can contact Mike Manookin in the following ways:

campus phone422-4414
office hours (1029 JKHB) 9-10 am, Tues & Thurs 1029 JKHB; other times by appointment

BYU Policies

The following statements are required to appear on this syllabus.

Preventing Sexual Harassment

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU's policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to you professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895 or 367-5689 (24 hours); or contact the Honor code office at 378-2847.

Students With Disabilities

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere, which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (378-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD Office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895, D-282 ASB.

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