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LINGUIST 61S: Language Evolution and Change

Every human culture has a sophisticated, systematic means of communication which we call "language". Why? What makes languages the way they are, and what makes them keep changing over time? In this course, we will explore proposed explanations for language evolution and their connections to language change. In doing so, we will address a major roadblock in scientific inquiry: how do you study something you can't directly observe? Language evolution left no fossils behind, so how can different proposed explanations for it be evaluated? We will examine the argumentation behind different proposed explanations and the various methodologies that have been used to support them. Students will put to practice the knowledge and critical thinking skills gained from this course by developing and workshopping their own research project proposals. Students taking the course for 3 units will be expected to complete a project proposal and peer review in addition to the regular assignments.
Last offered: Summer 2018
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