syllabus2007-02-9-3

syllabus2007-02-9-3 - Last update: September 3, 2007 In a...

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Last update: September 3, 2007 In a Word Time: T, TH, 11:00-12:20, Location: THH 102 Instructor: Prof. Hagit Borer Office hours —T, Thurs. 4:00–5:00pm GFS 301A and by appt.; (213) 740-4870 borer@usc.edu Teaching Assistants (Section and Lab Leaders): Janet Anderson O f f i c e H o u r s : T , 1 0 : 0 0 - 1 1 : 0 0 T h , 4 : 0 0 - 5 : 0 0 B y a p p o i n t m e n t jkanders@usc.edu Wendy Cheng O f f i c e H o u r s : M , 8 : 0 0 - 9 : 0 0 F , 9 : 0 0 - 1 0 : 0 0 B y a p p o i n t m e n t hsiuwenc@usc.edu
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why take this class | contact info | readings | course grading | quizzes | homework and lab assignments | Blackboard link | academic integrity | students with disabilities | course outline | references | Words are the most natural, accessible units of our language. The existence of words as discreet units seems very intuitive and straightforward to us, and intimately connected to our thought processes. But as it turns out, words present a huge mystery to modern scientists. For instance, the number of words known by adults is typically underestimated, and most people believe that vocabulary size is directly linked to literacy. And yet, linguists have determined that an average, normal adult, regardless of his or her level of education, knows approximately 50,000 words (although, of course, these words may vary according to education and background). But how is it possible for a child to learn so many words, in what appears to be a relatively short period of time? Others believe that our vocabulary determines how we think, and that as a result, the nature of thought itself may vary from one language community to the next. But linguists now believe that most language systems are fundamentally similar to one another, and that there is no evidence that our speech patterns determine our thinking. When scientists attempt to make more explicit what it means for all of us to routinely use and understand so many words, they are faced with many important, non-trivial questions. How do we extract words, with their specific meaning, from the acoustic jumble of speech? How do we know when strike is a noun and when it is a verb? How do we know that transformationalize is probably
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a word in English, even if we don't know what it means, but that transformize is not? And how do children, at such a young age, learn all this? Linguists believe that finding the answers to these questions gives us a very special window to the workings of the human mind. In this course, we will explore what makes using language in general and words in particular a difficult task in principle, and how we think humans do it. We will learn how to assign structure to words, and how they interact with other words, we will look at how children acquire words and what goes wrong when the ability to use words is lost as a result of illness or aging. Finally, we will investigate how words are used in different social groups, including gender, class, race, and age. Why Take this Class?
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syllabus2007-02-9-3 - Last update: September 3, 2007 In a...

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