Rise Out: Introduction to Linguistics

  • February 08, 2019
  • May 10, 2019
  • 12 sessions
  • February 08, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • February 15, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • March 01, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • March 08, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • March 15, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • March 22, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • March 29, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • April 05, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • April 12, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • April 26, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • May 03, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • May 10, 2019, 11:00 AM 12:00 PM
  • Voyagers

Rise Out-logo-black-small.png


Bonjour! Aloha! Ahlan wa sahlan!

This class is an introduction to language.

We will begin by reading the book A Man Without Words by Susan Schaller, an account of a deaf man raised in a small village in Guatemala who was 27 years old before he realized language existed, and that humans could use it to communicate. The book, written by his teacher, explores how we acquire language and the incredible obstacles humans would face in organizing their lives and thoughts without relying on language.

From there we will look at classic themes in introductory linguistics, including phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics. We will watch a Star Trek episode about a culture that can only communicate in metaphor, spend a week studying how “politeness” works in different languages (hint: it’s more nuanced in Japanese than English), and study invented languages like Esperanto, Elvish, Klingon, and computer languages. We will also study animal communication systems, “endangered” languages, memes, emoticons, “chat-speak,” the historical relationship between different languages (like Hebrew + Arabic, French + Italian, and German + English), and the different ways different languages approach scripts and grammar. We’ll also ask what differentiates a “dialect” from a “language” — one definition is that a language has an army behind it — and look at why the United States has historically resisted the call to make English its official national language.

This course will utilize materials from the Coursera MOOC “Miracles of Human Language: Introduction to Linguistics.” Students may wish to co-enroll in that course for free, but this is not required. Note that the Rise Out course is twice as long (12 weeks vs. 6 weeks) and contains many materials not included in the Coursera course.

If you have already studied a foreign language, great! We encourage you to use examples from your study to contribute to this class. If you have NOTstudied a foreign language yet, even better! This is an ideal class to take before you choose which language(s) you want to pursue, and will help you make sense of all the weird and wonderful ways that foreign languages differ.

Instructor: Laura Fokkena


Suggested age range: 13+

Outside work: 60-90 minutes of reading and video homework per week. All materials are provided online. Students will be asked to take out a free account on Duolingo and experiment with learning one or more languages at the elementary level.

When & where: Fridays at Voyagers in Chelmsford (directions) from 11:00-12:00, Feb. 8-May 10, 2019. No class Feb. 22 or Apr. 19.

Fee: $200 for the semester, which includes a non-refundable registration fee of $10. $10 discount for Voyagers members. Payment plans available. Fees waived for families with financial need.  (Waivers and payment plan information.)


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66 Princeton St.
North Chelmsford, MA 01863

Use the Chelmsford Mills entrance and parking lot.

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