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Introduction to Language and Linguistics

Course Code: LING 1101
Faculty: Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Department: Modern Languages
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Tutorial
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course is an introduction to language structure. Students will develop an appreciation of structural similarities among languages despite apparent linguistic diversity. A variety of language samples drawn from different languages, 3 from the Indo-European family and 3 from non-Indo-European families, will be analysed. Topics will include the sound system (speech sounds, articulation, patterning), word formation (inflection, derivation, composition), sentence formation (parts of speech, phrases, clauses, deep/surface structure, X-bar theory, movement) and word meaning (lexical semantic relations) and sentence meaning (thematic roles, discourse).

Course Content

1-Word Meaning

  • Semantic relations among words: synonymy/antonymy, polysemy/homophony
  • How these semantic relations affect sentences: paraphrase, entailment, contradiction
  • Meaning: connotation/denotation, extension/intention
  • Componential analysis, verb subcategorization (number and type of arguments a verb takes needed for syntax)
  • Conceptual system: fuzzy concepts (ill-defined lexical concepts can be accommodated by Prototype Theory), metaphor, lexicalization

2-Word Sounds

  • Phonetics: transcription, units of representation, sound system, articulation, articulatory processes (e.g., assimilation, deletion), production, supra-segmentals (e.g., (tone, stress)
  • Phonology: sound patterns: segments, phonemes and allophones (minimal pairs, complementary distribution, contrast), syllable, syllable structure, features (e.g., +/-bilabial), rules (for the distribution of a phoneme) and derivations (of allophonic variations)

3-Word Formation and Word Structure (morpho-phonology, morphology, theoretical, generative grammar)

  • Word structure: morphemes (bound and free, roots and affixes, type of affixes)
  • Derivation (lexical concepts-e.g., -ly, the suffix deriving adjectives from nouns) and inflection (grammatical concepts –e.g., the -ed past tense marker)
  • Inflection versus derivation
  • Compounding, endocentric/exocentric compounds
  • Morphological processes (e.g., affixation, blending may involve a change in sound as well as in morphological structure)

4-Phrase Structure (morpho-syntax, syntax) (theoretical, generative grammar)

  • Word categories (parts of speech)
  • Phrases structure: X-bar theory: heads, specifiers, complements
  • Minimalist syntax: merge operation
  • Tests for phrase structure


  • Complement clauses
  • Movement (in questions) + landing site (where the moved word goes to)
  • Deep and surface structure
  • Universal grammar and parametric variations
  • Other (modifiers, relative clauses, passives, VP internal subject)

6-Sentence meaning (semantics)

  • Syntax and sentence interpretation (generative grammar)
  • Structural ambiguity
  • Thematic roles (e.g., agent), thematic role assignment
  • Binding theory (interpretation of pronouns, principles A, B and C)
  • Other factors in sentence interpretation
  • Role of beliefs and attitudes, presupposition, setting
  • Discourse and conversational maxims (relevance, quality, quantity, manner)

Methods of Instruction

 Lectures, in-class tutorials, group work, group discussions, problem solving, data analysis, short reports by students

Means of Assessment

A typical assessment would include the following elements:

  • Attendance/participation/preparation 15%
  • Short oral reports as part of in class discussions 25%
  • 4 Assignments at 5% each (data analysis, problem solving) 20%
  • 4 exams 20%
  • Portfolio 5% (to accompany the poster, as a way of keeping track of the progress)
  • Poster presentation 15% (final work)

(Note: no assignment will be more than 20%)

Learning Outcomes

 Students will develop an appreciation of linguistic diversity by analyzing a variety of language samples drawn from different languages, Indo-European and non-Indo-European.

By the end of term, the successful student will:

  • understand the principles of the structural system underlying human language (a good knowledge of grammar in general that can be applied to analyze any language and a good theoretical foundation if the student is to continue in linguistics)
  • develop the ability to analyze and describe language samples
  • appreciate linguistic diversity (be aware of the different ways a concept can be structurally encoded in languages)
  • better appreciate the similarities and differences between languages and language families

course prerequisites




curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.