Everywhere, every day, everybody uses language. There is no human society, no matter how small or how isolated, which does not employ a language that is rich and diverse. This course introduces you to linguistics, featuring interviews with well-known linguists and with speakers of many different languages. Join us to explore the miracles of human language!
The Miracles of Human Language introduces you to the many-faceted study of languages, which has amazed humans since the beginning of history. Together with speakers of many other languages around the world, as well as with famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky and Adele Goldberg, you will learn to understand and analyse how your native tongue is at the same time similar and different from many other languages. You will learn the basic concepts of linguistics, get to know some of the key features of big and small languages and get insight into what linguists do.
This course gives an introduction into the study of languages, the field of linguistics. With the support of the basic linguistic terminology that is offered in the course, you will soon be able to comment both on variety between languages, as well as on a single language’s internal structure. Anyone who wishes to understand how languages work, and how they can give us insight into the human mind is very welcome to join.
The course is useful if you want to get a fairly quick introduction into linguistics, for instance because you are considering studying it further, or because you are interested in a neighbouring discipline such as psychology, computer science or anthropology. Furthermore, the course will help you develop analytical skills.
If you are curious to understand how language works and how it gives insight into the human mind, this course is definitely for you!
Introduction to Linguistics
-In this first week, we will try to determine what makes language human: why do (almost) all human beings have a language, and what makes human language different from animal communication systems? We will furthermore discuss the many different places where linguists work, and the many different methodologies that they use for conducting their research. You will moreover get to know all the other participants in this MOOC: my students Inge and Marten, as well as the speakers of six different languages. Finally, don't forget to watch our first expert interview: Marten and Inge have talked with Dr. Victoria Nyst of Leiden University, who has enlightened us in the fascinating world of sign languages! For the assignments with the support of Ethnologue, please make sure to study the instructions listed in 'required and optional readings' of this module.
The study of sound: Phonology and Phonetics
-In this module we will delve into what appear to be the smallest building blocks of spoken language: 'sounds'. As we will see however, all is not what it seems, as we will in fact encounter an even smaller building block of language, a true atom. Another interesting thing about this module is that as of this week our 6 informants will all only speak their own language. Naturally, there is also an interview with my very special friend Prof. dr. Claartje Levelt, whom I have announced before.
The study of words and sentences: Morphology and Syntax
-In this module we will discuss words and sentences. All languages have them; but as I will illustrate, they can be organized in very different ways in different languages. I will furthermore demonstrate what cupcakes have in common with words in a sentence. This module's interview is with one of the most cited and re-knowned linguists alive, Prof. Noam Chomsky! Finally, our 6 language informants will provide us with information about the word order in their languages.
The study of meaning: Pragmatics and Semantics
-This module deals with a topic which many of you find very interesting: meaning. How do we determine what a word means? To what extent does our language influence our thinking? How can we change the world with language? As usual, we also have an additional interview with an expert of the current module's theme: in this module Barend Beekhuizen talks to Inge and Marten about his work as a Leiden PhD student in computational linguistics.
Language in the Brain
-This module features all of the well-known parts of the current MOOC. Informants tell us about speech errors in their native tongue, I discuss everyday mistakes with my students Marten and Inge, and we have an interview with Prof. Niels Schiller of Leiden University. He discusses with us his own research among others. We moreover go on a little outing, to see linguists in their natural habitat! Furthermore, thanks to our friends at 'Babel, -The Language Magazine' we have some interesting reading for you. For example, linguist Jörg Schwyter tells us all about how he had to deal with aphasia, and how that has influenced him as a multilingual speaker.
Language in the Society
-In the previous modules we have dissected the structure of languages, but now we will study language in its real context: how does language change? How do people use language to be polite? Our informants are demonstrating their acting skills, and furthermore we have an interview with Prof. Adele Goldberg! She presents us with an alternative view of language, compared to the one as previously discussed by Prof. Chomsky in the third module.
I've always been passionate about language, and I am very grateful that this MOOC provided me with the opportunity to gain some beginner-level insights into the field of linguistics. The lecture videos were fantastic - short, to the point, and giving a good general overview. The difficulty level and...
I've always been passionate about language, and I am very grateful that this MOOC provided me with the opportunity to gain some beginner-level insights into the field of linguistics. The lecture videos were fantastic - short, to the point, and giving a good general overview. The difficulty level and pace were perfect: very informative, without being overwhelming - perfect for some "casual learning" on the side. I also enjoyed the forum discussions. That being said, I do have one important criticism: questions in the weekly quizzes suffered from ambiguous wording. This was brought to the course owners' attention every single week after every single quiz. Some questions were reworded, but a lot of ambiguity remained. Sometimes correct answers were incorrectly marked. Over the duration of the course, this didn't really improve, and was present in the final exam. Maybe the problem is that I have a background in the "hard sciences", so my expectation is that if you have a great understanding of the matter taught through the videos/readings, following logic/reasoning, you should be able to select the correct multiple choice answer(s) with 100% certainty, and that, sadly, wasn't the case. (I can give specific examples if required.) So while the course itself was fun and informative, the feeling remains that in the end we all fought the quizzes/final exam rather than fighting to conquer the subject matter. I would certainly take part in further courses, but my hope is that the quizzes and exams would receive a greater degree of QA/testing before going live.
I took this course to gain a basic, beginning-level understanding (not for credit), and it did provide me that. Overall, I enjoyed the learning opportunity. I wish I could give a better rating, but unfortunately there were some aspects of the mechanics of it that I found frustrating. Without going into...
I took this course to gain a basic, beginning-level understanding (not for credit), and it did provide me that. Overall, I enjoyed the learning opportunity. I wish I could give a better rating, but unfortunately there were some aspects of the mechanics of it that I found frustrating. Without going into detail, I'd summarize them as follows: quiz and exam questions that dealt with nitpicky details or things that were not covered sufficiently; possible errors in the material and quizzes; lack of response to requests for help on how to do something or where to find something (never did find the explanation of the IPA exercise and still don't understand it); and videos, interviews and discussions that lack precise information.
There are a couple of issues that I'd like to say a little more about. (1) While Chomsky is highly regarded and somewhat entertaining, he was all over the place on what he was actually saying. After talking about something for quite a while, he'd say something to the effect of—this is just my opinion and not too many people agree with me. (2) Likewise, there was a series of readings in which one writer discredited the one before, and that made it hard for me as a beginner to the field to draw any informative conclusions. (3) While I think the idea of students discussing topics and questions is a good one, I found that the student cohorts are moving at different paces and are not coming back to the discussions at the same time, and also are not going back and looking at topics from previous weeks to see if there has been some discussion about one of my (or their own or others') comments. Can't blame them; I, too, wanted to keep moving on. But this meant the forums were not really discussions. Also, without an instructor or advanced student participating, there was no one to correct misinformation. (4) I found the informants' presentations very interesting and, well, informative! But in order to pass the quiz/exam, one had to spend a lot of time trying to compare tiny details in foreign languages. (5) The video by Labov that replaced his article did not contain any charts, so there was no reference for answering one of the final exam questions.
A final suggestion. I have written several online courses on Genealogy, and I was required to indicate precisely where in the material the answer to each exam question could be found. Even if this information is not shared with the students, I think the exercise of the quiz/test preparer doing that would tighten up the way the material is presented and would make for a more satisfying learning experience.
completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very hard.
I'm so mad at this course. First I wrote 'bad' by mistake but actually that's true as well. I only passed the tests for the second-third time and it made me so frustrated because I had been really looking forward to learn linguistics, paid attention to the videos, read the additional material and, I...
I'm so mad at this course. First I wrote 'bad' by mistake but actually that's true as well. I only passed the tests for the second-third time and it made me so frustrated because I had been really looking forward to learn linguistics, paid attention to the videos, read the additional material and, I haven't really had any difficulties with Coursera courses so far.
What especially annoyed me was the tests that contained all those totally irrelevant questions about the informants which, as I see it, should have been only examples, while the more useful stuff was merely mentioned in the those silly, superficial professor-students discussions so it was quite hard to recall them for the tests.
I don't wanna sound rude because everyone who's been on the screen during this course seemed to be very nice people but the material was just badly structured. Anyway, I finished the course after all (it took me almost 4 months), not because I enjoyed it very much but because I didn't want to give it up, and that's the true miracle (of human language).
completed this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
This is probably the first linguistics course offered on Coursera. The course material is very engaging, and the instructors are fantastic. I especially liked the interaction sessions between the Professor and his two students Martin and Inge. The interview with Noam Chomsky was another great highlight.
The assignments are really interesting, as they deepen your knowledge of the course material.
completed this course, spending 4 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
Fantastic and well-taught! The ideas and concepts are easy to understand and makes huge sense. This is a really interesting course and the dialogs in the videos between the professor and students are thought-provoking. The exams were not very easy and sometimes I have to take it 5 or more times, but the pressure motivated me and helped a lot. It is extremely appealing to me, after all.
To those who are just planning to choose the course - this one is incredibly well done , I would highly recommend it to those who are real newbies and who want to understand smth about linguistics from the very basics.
Great course! It covers many aspects of linguistics, can be very interesting for people, which have no experience in this topic. Also it's good that the course has optional exercises and materials for those who want to study more.
completed this course, spending 3 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.
It was a very nice introductory course. The professor and his assistants were great, as well as the guests who showed their works in fields of linguistics, which was very useful to see how the field is going on.
I'm a linguistics nerd, so I thoroughly enjoy courses that discuss linguistic concepts. I liked the setup of the course into six units, addressing very relevant topics in linguistics. The accompanying videos were entertaining, including the native speaker informant ones. I also appreciated the module...
I'm a linguistics nerd, so I thoroughly enjoy courses that discuss linguistic concepts. I liked the setup of the course into six units, addressing very relevant topics in linguistics. The accompanying videos were entertaining, including the native speaker informant ones. I also appreciated the module on language and the brain, with the inclusion of aphasia. I don't agree with the presented belief that human language has evolved out of animal communication (through evolution).
Two suggestions for improvement. The last unit on sociolinguistics was a little disappointing. I had expected to find some more content on dialectal differences and maybe even disappearing languages in the videos, but instead we got a ton of information on the concept of "face", which I think belongs more to the field of pragmatics, which was part of an earlier module.
Second, some of the quiz questions dealt with translations of the informants' data, which (compared to the question presented) didn't make a lot of sense to me. I conscientiously wrote down the phrases in the original languages, and analyzed those, but didn't always pay close attention to the exact translations.
I loved this course! When I started the course, I had just finished Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding of Language, so I was very interested in phonetics and grammar. In MOOC, more than just phonetics, I had the opportunity to learn about semantics, pragmatics, aphasias, animal communication systems, sign...
I loved this course! When I started the course, I had just finished Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding of Language, so I was very interested in phonetics and grammar. In MOOC, more than just phonetics, I had the opportunity to learn about semantics, pragmatics, aphasias, animal communication systems, sign languages, language diversity, dialects, typology, politeness and so much more! My vision and interest in linguistics has certainly expanded quite a lot due to this course. Professor Marc van Oostendorp's enthusiasm is compelling and his explanations and examples are easy to understand. I especially liked the discussion videos with Marten and Inge, because they had thoughtful questions, some that I asked myself and some I probably wouldn't think of on my own. I also enjoyed the interviews with researchers, because it allows students to understand the work of a linguist and its applications. The only thing I believe can be improved is the quizzes. Some of them were very hard to pass due to ambiguity in questions or just really hard questions for a beginner. But it's doable!
The course builds up through videos, discussions with students, interviews with specialists, reading articles and also some practical elements of analyzing deferent languages, some familiar and some of them less familiar like Tarifit Berber. The videos with the lectures were very beneficial, but I found it very hard to follow through the different new concepts terms. In that way it was very challenging. If there were kind of written presentations for the different term I think it would have been nor clear. I felt like I have gaps of information. Also the tests were very hard, with tough multiple choice questions and with analyzing unfamiliar languages. Over all, the marital was very interesting and it made me curious to learn more. It takes a lot of effort, so I recommend it only if one has the time for it. I will gladly take a course like that again, because it gives me a chance to things my way and on my time which is great.
completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.
Due to time constraints, I was only able to audit this enjoyable linguistic course. I can not provide a comprehensive review, other than to say the course content is well presented and interesting, especially for someone new to the subject, like me. If my university studies allowed some time, I would like to fully engage with the material. This course is recommended, as supported by the crowd funding project for the last module.
completed this course, spending 10 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be very hard.
For someone who doesn't master English, this course can be difficult because of the technical terms applied througout the course. Apart from this, this course is well structured and substantial, the quizzes are very challenging. It requests lots of effort, but I truely enjoyed the learning and benefited a lot from this MOOC.
is taking this course right now, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be hard.
I am really enjoying and benefiting from this course. If you're at all interested in human language, and as a human being you probably should be, I would strongly recommend this course. It will take some effort on your part, but I assure you that it will be worth it.
Amazing class. To me as a high school student, this class was extremely informative about the basics of linguistics and sparked my interest even further. I 100% recommend this to anyone who is interested in a good class for linguistics.